Apollo legends see Historic Mission Control unveiled

December 1st, 2018

It was an historic sight – living legends who worked on the Apollo program reunited for a major milestone — the unveiling of restored Historic Mission Control consoles used to send humans to the Moon. The newly restored units arrived in a return flight to Ellington Airport by way of NASA’s Super Guppy.

NASA’s Johnson Space Center and NASA’s Johnson Space Center are leading the restoration of Historic Mission Control and this marked a major milestone in the ongoing campaign to restore a National Historic Landmark before Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary.

Designed to carry oversized cargo, the Super Guppy airlifted the consoles from the Cosmosphere, a space museum in Hutchinson, Kan. Luminaries of the Apollo program — Will Davidson, Ed Fendell, Robert Grilli, Milt Heflin, Denny Holt, James Kelly, Thomas Loe, Glynn Lunney, Merlin Merritt, Bill Moon, Bill Reeves, and Milt Windler – saw the restored consoles for the first time under a hangar at Ellington Airport.

Joining them were JSC Director Mark Geyer, Space Center Houston CEO William T. Harris, plus JSC Apollo Mission Control Restoration Project Manager Jim Thornton and Director of Flight Operations Brian Kelly.

“We want to keep the legacy of the Apollo-era alive and preserve Historic Mission Control,” said Harris. “Thanks to the combined efforts of so many people, future generations can experience this iconic room exactly as it was when Neil Armstrong made his historic first steps on the Moon.”

Time had taken a toll on the Mission Operations Control Room, used during the Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle eras, and it was in acute need of restoration. Furnishings such as carpeting, tile, paperwork, coffee cups and ashtrays in the room are being collected and restored to recreate the appearance of an active Apollo era Mission Control room — how the area looked the moment the first Moon landing occurred on July 20, 1969.

Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985, the control room celebrates human space exploration and inspires people from around the world who visit. Johnson Space Center, Space Center Houston and the City of Webster are working together to restore the room that made what seemed an inconceivable dream become a reality. Webster, a longtime supporter of Space Center Houston, gave a $3.5 million lead gift toward the $5 million restoration byThe Cosmosphere, which is restoring nearly two dozen consoles.

The restored Mission Control Room will be unveiled to the world in time for the Apollo 11 mission’s 50th anniversary and the City of Houston will host a month-long celebration, including a ribbon-cutting for the restored Mission Control room.

“On a Mission” campaign. Space Center Houston then led a 30-day funding campaign drawing more than 4,000 pledges from 15 countries including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany. The city of Webster matched the crowdfunding campaign gifts dollar-for-dollar up to $400,000 as a component of the lead gift. Current proceeds stand at approximately $4.5 million leaving $500,000 remaining to meet the $5 million On a Mission campaign goal.

New air traffic control tower OK’d for Ellington Airport

April 1st, 2017

Ellington Airport plans to build a new $12.4 million air traffic control tower to replace its existing tower, starting later this month. Approval for the project came on a unanimous Houston City Council vote March 8.

When it is completed next year, it will replace the current tower, which was built in 1955 and damaged in Hurricane Ike in 2008. Afterwards, the 60-year-old tower will be torn down.

At 143-feet, the new structure will be nearly twice as tall as the current tower, and, besides new weather observation and communications equipment, it will have a mission control area for spaceflights at the future spaceport and also include a utility building, utility yard and parking area, and the purchase and installation of navigational and communication equipment necessary.

“Construction of this tower shows the commitment the Houston Airport System has to Ellington and its future,” said Ellington Airport General Manager Arturo Machuca, “and furthers our support for our military partners at Ellington.”

Some $9.3 million will come from Houston Airport System revenue with $3.1 million from a state grant. “This is an important step forward for Ellington Airport, and a critical project to ensure the vital aviation operations based there can be carried out safely and efficiently,” said Houston Aviation Director Mario C. Diaz.

The new tower is vital to the continuation of all Ellington Joint Reserve Base military and aviation missions, and all other general aviation activities, Machuca said. The Ellington JRB is utilized by the Texas Air National Guard, Texas Army National Guard and the Coast Guard as aviation operational centers and hubs of distribution supporting federal and state civil authorities.

The new structure will be built adjacent to the current tower, which will remain in use until the new structure is completed. Work on the project is expected to begin in four to six weeks, and the new tower is expected to be operational by the end of next year.