Apollo 8 by Jeffrey Kluger

Apollo 8 by Jeffrey Kluger

Author:Jeffrey Kluger
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

TEN

December 21, 1968

Technically, Gene Kranz did not need to be present at Mission Control in Houston on the day Apollo 8 launched. The official manning list—the roster of every controller who would sit at every console for each of the three eight-hour shifts during the six-day flight—did not include Kranz’s name anywhere. His odd-on, even-off flight schedule had him busy not with the job of flying Apollo 8 but with planning for Apollos 9, 11, 13, 15, and on down the line for however long the moon ships kept flying. For Apollo 8, the prime seat in Mission Control—the flight director’s console—would be filled by a rotating cast consisting of Cliff Charlesworth, Milt Windler, and Glynn Lunney, and they would be more than up to the job without Kranz there to second-guess their work.

But what the manning list said and what Kranz wanted were two different things, and for him, Mission Control was the only possible place to be. Kranz loved everything about the great high-ceilinged control room, with its big board of maps and data filling the front wall like a giant movie screen. He loved it so much that he couldn’t imagine walking into the control room unless he felt fully prepared—especially on the days a mission was flying.

Kranz prided himself on his deep, typically dreamless sleep. Most nights, he was like a flesh-and-blood version of the huge engines on the ships he flew: when he shut down, he shut down completely. And also like those engines, when he powered back up there was absolutely no missing the fact, though he sometimes needed a little help.

By his own estimate, Kranz owned forty albums of music by John Philip Sousa, but that count was not necessarily accurate, because Marta and the children kept giving him more every time there was a birthday or some other special occasion that warranted a gift. Almost every morning, Kranz would wake up and put on Sousa—maybe “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” maybe “Semper Fidelis,” maybe “Hands Across the Sea”—just to get started.

He would drive to work with a portable tape player on the seat, listening to still more Sousa and timing his route so he could hit all the green lights as he sped through the bedroom community of League City on his way to the space center. After he arrived, he could not always say if all of the lights had in fact been green. The truth was, he sometimes couldn’t remember seeing any of them because he’d been too busy enjoying his music and anticipating his day.

When he got out of his car in the Mission Control parking lot, Kranz would say good morning to Moody, the parking guard with the gold tooth and the sharp military manner who knew the name of every controller and engineer in the building. Moody would give him a wonderful smile and a crisp hello in response. And then, at last, Kranz would enter his control room.

When Kranz was in the Air Force, he had flown F-86 Sabrejets on patrol missions around the demilitarized zone in Korea.



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