Gene Kranz - NASA Flight Director Interview Transcript

August 16, 2012

Gene Kranz - Presidential Medal of Freedom & NASA Flight Director (1960-1990)

(This interview excerpt was part of an oral history program at the NASA Johnson Space Center. He was interviewed by journalist Roy Neal on April 28, 1999, in Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. This transcription was originally published July 9, 2011).

Part I

Watch Entire Interview (Part 1) at C-Span"

I wish that as a nation we could set our sites much higher. I believe it is essential to have a national purpose. It is essential to maintain the pioneering spirit that made this country great. It’s the spirit that got us through this past century. It got us through world wars. It allowed us to move into a leadership role. And it was a compassionate leadership role throughout the world. And a nation that allowed us to step up to the challenge of the cold war and win it. It’s a challenge that took the country to the moon. It took us into space. It made us the preeminent force in space. And in the process of doing this we rekindled the pioneering spirit of a generation of people that grew up in the Depression and came to adulthood in the 60’s and carried space from the 60’s through to the early 90’s.

Gene Kranz - Failure Is Not An Option

I would like to find some way to sufficiently challenge a new generation of people. To get them out of the “I” mode into the “we” mode. To make them want to do something rather than be something. I would like to give young people the same dream that we had. I would like to find our nation unified, the world unified, in the achievement of a common goal I believe that space provides us…I believe, difficult programs like Mars would provide it. But unfortunately, we do not have the national leadership that we’d need. We do not have a United States Congress that really recognized the need for this country to continue to grow and to invest in R&D. We don’t have the national leaders capable of stepping up and taking a difficult position and articulating why we must do something.

I’m not interested in something for Gene Kranz, I’m interested in something for my children. I’m interested in something for my children’s children because we are the only nation in the entire Earth that is blessed with the types of freedom that we’ve had. That has the economic potential of a great nation composed of so many different ethnic groups and types of people capable of doing these kinds of things. So we must continue to force leadership to grow and I was privileged and proud to be part of the years when leadership flourished in this Mission Control. There is not one flight director who ever left here who was not inspired to do something else and to do better. And that I think it is important for us to communicate, not only to people here at Johnson…people are going to be looking at these tapes…but the people of the nation…this very magnificent era that we all lived in and maybe didn’t look closely enough and find its true meaning.”

Gene Kranz Interviewed on C-Span

Part 2

Watch Entire Interview (Part 2) at C-Span

"In order take care of the peoples of the world we need a strong economic base ourselves (I think we can see that today). As the economies of the world are sinking and rising…we are the stabilizing influence. We are providing the funds to keep those people going. To do this we need a stable and robust economy ourselves. To do this we need to continue to develop very new and very advanced technologies. To do this we have to find difficult objectives to go after because this is the forcing function for tough technologies.

I think space is truly the last frontier for the development of very new advanced technologies. We been living basically on the seed crop, the technologies of the '60’s provided the digital systems of the 70’s. The technologies that we developed in the shuttle and that were developed through star wars are the ones we are using for this tremendous communications revolution that we’ve got."

So I think we have to figure out, where is the research and development coming from that is going to allow us to stay on top of the job. I have concerns that we are not investing well in R&D."

Apollo 13 Mission Patch