Christoper Columbus Kraft Jr., NASA's first flight director, pioneer of Mission Control and a key figure in the spaceflight program, died Monday. He was 95.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine called Kraft a "national treasure," pointing to his work in establishing NASA's Mission Control, which directs human spaceflight activities from the ground. Kraft's work in developing the procedures and processes for sending humans to space would eventually pave the way for the and, to this day, provides communications for astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
"Chris was one of the core team members that helped our nation put humans in space and on the moon, and his legacy is immeasurable," said Bridenstine in a NASA press release. "Chris' engineering talents were put to work for our nation at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, before NASA even existed, but it was his legendary work to establish Mission Control as we know it for the earliest crewed space flights that perhaps most strongly advanced our journey of discovery."
Kraft was born in Phoebus, Virginia, on Feb. 28, 1924. He graduated from Virginia Tech in 1944, having majored in aeronautical engineering and joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in 1945. Kraft was tapped to oversee flight operations for NASA's earliest manned expeditions off-planet and would serve as the first flight director for NASA's Mercury missions, putting Americans into space for the first time.
As we travel further into the cosmos, Kraft's legacy will be remembered. The Mission Control Center at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston is named in his honor.
"We stand on his shoulders as we reach deeper into the solar system, and he will always be with us on those journeys," said Bridenstine.