Mission Control’s unsung heroes revisit Apollo

Mission Control, 1969
Flight directors are on duty at NASA’s Mission Control Center during the Apollo 10 mission in May 1969. Gerry Griffin is in the foreground, Glynn Lunney is seated to his right, and Milt Windler is standing behind them. Chris Kraft, director of flight operations, is standing in the background. (NASA Photo)

This episode of the GeekWire Podcast is part of the Destination Moon podcrawl, organized by Seattle’s Museum of Flight.

Fifty years ago, it took a special kind of person to work in NASA’s Apollo Mission Control: Take Gerry Griffin and Milt Windler, for example.

Both men got their degrees in aeronautical engineering and became jet fighter pilots — but when NASA needed flight controllers for the space race against the Soviets, they answered the call and traded their cockpits for control panels. Both were elevated to flight director roles in the wake of the Apollo 1 fire, which killed three astronauts in 1967. There was one key requirement for the job: winning the approval of Chris Kraft, director of flight operations at Mission Control in Houston.

“Chris Kraft decided he needed more flight directors to make it to Apollo, and in those days, if Chris wanted you to be a flight director, you were a flight director,” Griffin said during a recent stopover at Seattle’s Museum of Flight. “Nowadays you have to go through a certification process. …”

“We probably wouldn’t have made the cut,” Windler joked.

Listen to the podcast and get the full story on GeekWire.


How the moon figures in Jeff Bezos’ big picture

Jeff Bezos and Blue Moon lander
Jeff Bezos shows off Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lunar lander in Washington, D.C. (Blue Origin Photo)

By Todd Bishop and Alan Boyle

It’s our choice: a finite world with limited resources, or an infinite universe with unlimited potential. Those were the options presented by Jeff Bezos this week he laid out his plan to colonize the moon as a first step toward a future with as many as a trillion people in space.

Blue Origin, the Amazon founder’s private space venture, unveiled its Blue Moon lunar lander at an event in Washington, D.C., this week, and said it was working to help the country achieve the Trump administration’s goal of putting U.S. astronauts back on the moon by 2024. Blue Origin is one of multiple companies expected to compete for the NASA contract to go back to the moon.

But a lunar colony would be just the first step in Bezos’ larger aspirations for humans in the solar system.

GeekWire’s aerospace and science editor, Alan Boyle, was there for the announcement, and he called in for this special edition of the GeekWire podcast.

Get the podcast (and transcript) on GeekWire.

Cosmic Space

Listen to a two-pack podcast about Blue Origin

Image: Bezos and Boyle
Jeff Bezos and Alan Boyle get a selfie taken next to a nozzle for Blue Origin’s BE-4 rocket engine.

Journalists got a first-of-its-kind tour of Blue Origin’s rocket factory this week, personally conducted by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos. While the memories were still fresh, Cosmic Log’s Alan Boyle recounted the tour and talked about Bezos’ vision on two podcasts:

  • On GeekWire Radio, host Todd Bishop asks why Bezos decided to lift the veil on Blue Origin’s operation after 16 years of secretiveness.
  • On KUOW’s “The Record,” host Bill Radke gets the details on a tour that’s reminiscent of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. “No Oompa-Loompas, but lots of rocket engines.”