Behind the scenes at Nasa mission control

Behind the scenes at Nasa mission control

Summary: At Nasa's Mission Control Centre in Houston, Texas, the original flight control room is preserved alongside its high-tech, modern-day successor

TOPICS: After Hours

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  • Vintage Nasa control room image

    This room served as the nerve centre for a host of Nasa missions over several decades.

    It is one of two flight control rooms in Nasa's Mission Control Centre and it was used for more than 30 years — from 1964 and the early days of space exploration through to space-shuttle missions in the mid-1990s.

    The centre ran some of Nasa's most important missions, including Gemini 4 in 1965 — when an astronaut performed the first US spacewalk — and the Apollo moon landings in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

    ZDNet UK's sister site toured the former mission-control facility as part of a visit to Nasa's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, to see how the computing tech has evolved.

    Photo credit: Nick Heath/

  • Close-up of vintage Nasa console image

    This is one of the consoles used by flight controllers to command and monitor spacecraft during those early missions.

    These early control rooms, with their consoles featuring built-in CRT screens, were supported by IBM mainframe and later Univac computers, which helped process data from spacecraft and relay it to and from the flight room consoles.

    Flight controllers had to try and spot problems with spacecraft systems by monitoring warning lights and scanning blocks of figures on their display, looking for values that fell outside acceptable limits.

    To allow flight controllers to read the dim display, the room was kept dark and was often hazy with cigarette smoke.

    Flight controllers used the buttons on the left side of the console to patch communication channels into their headsets.

    Photo credit: Nick Heath/

Topic: After Hours


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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