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Behind the scenes at Nasa mission control

At Nasa's Mission Control Centre in Houston, Texas, the original flight control room is preserved alongside its high-tech, modern-day successor
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1 of 3 Nick Heath/silicon.com

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 silicon.com 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.

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2 of 3 Nick Heath/silicon.com

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.

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3 of 3 Nick Heath/silicon.com

Present-day Nasa mission control room image

This is the room at Nasa mission control for operations on board the International Space Station.

Each flight controller looks after a different part of the space-station mission, from guidance and navigation of the station to the health of the crew.

The flight director sits in the middle of the room, co-ordinating the team of flight controllers who work at about 18 consoles.

There are two flight control rooms at Nasa Mission Control Centre — one looking after the International Space Station and the other taking care of space-shuttle missions.

Both the space station and the shuttle flight control rooms use identical workstations, and most data related to the station or the shuttle can be viewed from either facility.

For more on this ZDNet UK-selected story, see Photos: Inside Nasa's Mission Control Center on silicon.com.

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