Lonely Planet Writer

Houston's Mission Control Center restored in time for the lunar landing's 50th anniversary

July 20, 1969, went down into the history books of humanity when Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. And he couldn’t have done it without the extraordinary guidance of men monitoring the mission from the Apollo Mission Control Center at Houston’s NASA Johnson Space Center.

The control desk with anniversary images on the screens.
Mission Control is ready for the anniversary celebrations. Image by Norah Moran

Five decades later, that storied Mission Control nerve center—from which NASA also monitored nine Gemini and all other Apollo lunar missions, as well as the Skylab and Space Shuttle missions—has undergone a stunning US$5 million historic preservation and will be reopening to visitors on 1 July, 2019.

Mission Control Center.
Return of the Apollo MCC consoles . Image by James Blair

“Our mission was to return the center back to July 20, 1969,” said Sandra Tetley, Johnson Space Center’s Historic Preservation Officer. This means every command console, every polyester-covered chair, and every circuit TV has been meticulously researched with forensic accuracy to reflect exactly how Mission Control—and four adjoining rooms—looked that momentous day. “We did a deep dive historic study of the [center] and re-created or restored the original,” said Tetley. “This is not a Home Depot restoration.”

Control panel
All the details will be exactly as they were when the lunar landings happened. Image by James Blair

When the visitor walks into the viewing room, they will be walking into the viewing room of July 20, 1969, with the lights, screens, and consoles coming to life with sight and sound. “Visitors will be taken back to the five parts of the Apollo 11 Mission,” said Tetley. “That includes descent and landing; first steps; reading of the plaque by Aldrin and Armstrong on the lunar module; Nixon’s call after the astronauts planted the flag on the moon; then the safe recovery and return of the astronauts. You see all of that, on re-created screens. All the footage is 100 percent accurate. You’re back there in the day.” The only thing missing is the people.

The renovation of Mission Control will be ready at the end of June. Image by James Blair

MOCR-2 (Mission Operations Control Room 2) was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985 and decommissioned in 1992. By 2017 the once-sparkling, state-of-the-art room was in a “shocking state of repair,” according to NBC News, and the National Park Service designed it a “threatened facility.” The restoration of the National Historic Landmark was coordinated by NASA Johnson Space Center with funds raised by the nonprofit Space Center Houston, the Official Visitor Center of NASA Johnson Space Center. 

A monitor and control panel
Every detail has been taken care of. Image by James Blair

There will be a private ribbon cutting on 28 June, 2019, with the official grand opening for the public in early July. At that point, visitors can see the center as part of Space Center Houston’s NASA Tram Tour, included in the admission ticket. For more information check out the official website here