Fifty years ago at Rice Stadium, President John F. Kennedy declared, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Gene Kranz, retired NASA flight director and manager, can attest to the challenges of going to the moon and will speak about them in a lecture at 7:10 p.m. Sept. 12 in Duncan Hall’s McMurtry Auditorium.
Kranz’s talk, “Failure is Not an Option,” is part of the Space Frontiers Lecture Series and commemorates the milestone anniversary of Kennedy’s speech.
Preceding the lecture will be a ceremony at 5:45 p.m. in Fondren Library to unveil a new exhibit on the history of cooperation between Rice University and NASA; a highlight of the exhibit is the NASA Ambassador of Exploration Award that was presented posthumously to Kennedy on the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. This award, which includes a small sample of lunar material, was entrusted to Rice by the Kennedy family for public display. President David Leebron and astronaut and Rice alumna Peggy Whitson ’85 will speak at the dedication of the new exhibit. A reception at 6:15 p.m. in Duncan Hall will be followed by a special award ceremony at 6:45 p.m. at which Leebron will receive the NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal.
Kranz joined the NASA Space Task Group at Langley Virginia in 1960 and was assigned as assistant flight director for Project Mercury. He assumed flight director duties for all Project Gemini missions.
In 1968 Kranz was selected as division chief for Flight Control and continued duties as flight director for the Apollo program. He was the flight director for many Apollo missions, including the Apollo 11 lunar landing, and he led the “Tiger Team” for the successful return of the Apollo 13 crew.
He was flight operations director for the Skylab program, and, at its conclusion, became deputy director of flight operations, with responsibility for spaceflight planning, training and mission, aircraft and astronaut operations.
In 1983, Kranz was director of Mission Operations, with responsibilities for all aspects of mission design, testing, planning, training and spaceflight operations. Additionally, he was responsible for the design, development, maintenance and operations of all related mission facilities and the preparation of the space shuttle flight software. He was responsible for more than 6,000 employees and an annual budget of approximately $750 million.
Kranz retired from NASA in March 1994 after 37 years of service. He is a co-recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded by President Richard Nixon for the Apollo 13 Mission, and was designated a distinguished member of the Senior Executive Service by President Ronald Reagan.
The author of the “spaceflight” section of the 1984 and 1988 World Book Encyclopedia, Kranz also is a New York Times best-selling author of “Failure is Not an Option,” published in 2000. The book chronicles his work in Mission Control from Project Mercury through Apollo 13 and beyond and was selected by the History Channel as the basis for two documentary programs.
The Space Frontiers Lecture Series, which is open to the public, is designed to introduce students and the general public to the wide array of issues involved in the pursuit of an advanced presence in space: international policy, technology innovation, commercialization, biological impacts and space science.