Eugene F. “Gene” Kranz

Former NASA Director of Mission Operations & Flight Director during the Gemini and Apollo programs

Born in Toledo, Ohio, USA on August 17, 1933, Eugene Francis “Gene” Kranz, developed an early interest in aeronautics that would lead to a long and distinguished space career.

After growing up on a farm, Kranz headed to Saint Louis University’s Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology to study aeronautical engineering. Graduating in 1954, he then spent four years in the US Air Force before joining NASA in 1960 as part of the NASA Space Task Group. As the spaceflight programs of Mercury and Gemini unfolded in the early and mid-1960’s, Kranz’s responsibilities and leadership in mission operations evolved significantly. By the time he became Flight Director in 1965 during Gemini IV, Kranz had already started shaping the operations, as well as new generations of talent that would impact space missions and forever change our world.

When the Apollo missions were announced, Kranz was assigned as Flight Director for all the odd numbered missions. This included Apollo 11, with Kranz present in the control room when Armstrong and Aldrin stepped on to the surface of the Moon. He is most famous, however, for his role in the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission as it was his leadership of the mission team that enabled the astronauts to safely return home.

Kranz would continue to serve in significant leadership roles at NASA through the Skylab and Space Shuttle programs, laying the groundwork for the construction and operations of the International Space Station and other space missions. His guidance and mentorship to countless numbers of flight engineers, controllers, mission managers, and other talent have assured that “tough and competent,” are the performance metrics that mission success would forever be dependent upon. Those are Gene Kranz’s standards.

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Space Technology Hall of Fame: Eugene F. “Gene” Kranz

Originally aired: October 26, 2020