Two days after the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Apollo 11 landing, one man who was key to the mission – and to all the other NASA crewed missions of that era – Christopher Columbus Kraft Jr, passed away at the age of 95. Having trained for aeronautical engineering, Kraft originally joined National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) – the forerunner for NASA, becoming one of its original 35 engineers when it was formed in 1958. Kraft was the key engineer and architect who created NASA’s mission control which was originally based at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and was later placed in Houston, Texas. Kraft also created the command structure for each mission with the Flight Director at its head. He was the first of these, but later handed the reigns over to Gene Kranz who was the “Flight” for the Apollo 11 landing and first moonwalk.
Kraft could be ruthless to those who opposed him, or to those who he thought had acted unprofessionally. He infamously ensured that Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter never flew in space again after he missed his mission landing zone. Nevertheless some astronauts later became grateful to him for their very lives.
While Mercury and Gemini missions were his main missions as Flight Director, Kraft was involved in the Apollo programme and famously chaired the meeting that devised the Apollo 13 lunar module lifeboat rescue plan after it was damaged after an on-board explosion.
Kraft later moved on to become head of the NASA Johnson manned space centre seeing in the first flight of the Space Shuttle in 1981 before he retired. He continued to work as a consultant to Rockwell International and controversially defended the NASA Space Shuttle safety procedures in a report in 1994, despite the destruction of STS-51L Challenger in 1986.
For all his work we give Chris Kraft our salute and give our condolences to his family.
…and we say goodbye to actor Rutger Hauer
Also passing away during late June was the Dutch actor Rutger Hauer who died after a short illness at the age of 75. Rutger Hauer gained fame originally in sex/love story Turkish Delight (1973) and later the sex/war story Soldier of Orange (1977) before he made his move to Hollywood where he made several films. Hauer is most famous for playing a runaway “replicant” android in the Ridley Scott’s science fiction thriller The Blade Runner (1982). We give our salute to him and our condolences to his family and friends.