NASA pioneer honored; says he regrets shuttle end
POSTED: Thursday, April 14, 2011 - 6:15pm
UPDATED: Saturday, April 16, 2011 - 8:01am
HOUSTON — One of the giants of American space exploration said Thursday he regrets the coming end of the shuttle program and believes NASA's workhorses for the past three decades could be modernized to allow them to carry the load for three more.
Christopher C. Kraft Jr., who was NASA's first flight director and helped guide U.S. space flights from the earliest days of the Mercury and Gemini programs, said rather than ending the shuttle program after a final planned flight in June, NASA should make its shuttles more efficient and less expensive to operate so they might one day take astronauts to Mars or beyond.
"It still has the potential of carrying out a very good space program," he said of NASA. "Yet the space shuttle, which knows how to come and go from space, is going. That's a shame," said Kraft, who also helped put men on the moon with the Apollo program.
NASA honored Kraft, 87, at a ceremony Thursday at the Johnson Space Center in Houston by naming Mission Control after him. It was a fitting tribute for a man who served as the space center's director from 1972 until 1982 and who helped design Mission Control, a familiar sight during space missions with its rows of consoles and workers. It currently acts as the control rooms for the shuttle program and the international space station.