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Campaign launched to restore NASA's historic mission control room

Restoring NASA's mission control
Restoring NASA's historic mission control center in Houston 04:44

On July 20, 1969, man was on the moon.

"The eagle has landed."
"You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot."
The world breathed a sigh of relief and celebrated – maybe no group more so than the people inside the Apollo mission control room inside Building 30 of the Johnson Space Center, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann.

Johnson Space Center   

The room is sacred to Gene Kranz, now 83, who was NASA's flight director during the Gemini and Apollo missions.
"We won the battle for space in this room and we captured the high ground and we did not surrender it during our tour," Kranz said.

It was Kranz who was in charge when an explosion aboard Apollo 13 nearly cost the lives of its three astronauts. That high drama was featured in the movie "Apollo 13."

NASA used the mission control room with its monochrome computer monitors and rotary dial telephones starting in 1965. It went dark in 1992, well into the shuttle program.

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Since then, the room has been designated a national historic landmark, but you'd never know from the looks of it. Houston, we have a problem: decay from years of neglect and souvenir-seekers who walked off with pieces of space history.  

When he sees the room, Kranz said he feels "a combination of frustration, anger, resentment."

Gene Kranz CBS News

"This is not appropriate. This is where our generation made history. This is where Apollo fulfilled the challenge issued by President Kennedy," Kranz said.

It's an insult to everyone who worked in the room to make history, he said.
With NASA's slashed budget, the agency's priority is the future of space travel, not preserving its past. Space Center Houston, the non-profit that runs the visitors center here, has launched a $5 million fundraising campaign to restore this room to its 1960s glory.
Space Center Houston CEO William Harris detailed for us how this iconic part of NASA's past will have a brighter future.
"All the consoles have to be removed, restored, buttons replaced… The screens will need to be redone," Harris said. "All of this is really old. But our commitment is to restore it back to the way it was."
Kranz wants to experience one more thrill in this room – to see it restored – and he's bringing his legendary can-do spirit to the project.
"This is a room that will now represent the best American had to offer," Kranz said. "Failure is not an option."

It's not an option, and there is a deadline. Organizers have until late summer to raise the $5 million to get the restoration work done in time for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 2019.

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