The Evolution of Mission Control

The Evolution of Mission Control

Explore in 360-degree video how NASA’s flight control facilities have evolved from the historic 1960s to the present day.



Published on October 4, 2016

It could almost pass for an ordinary office. Rows upon rows of computers. Muted tones on the wall. The tense hush preserved from a bygone era. NASA’s original Mission Control room is now a tourist site, a historic time capsule that commemorates Neil Armstrong’s “One small step.” But NASA has recently built a new control room, one that it hopes will witness the first steps on the Martian surface. And it’s renovating yet another to be used for the International Space Station.

Across the country, new control rooms are popping up. SpaceX, the upstart company founded by Elon Musk, has put its right near the entrance of its headquarters outside of Los Angeles. The sleek, glass-encased room has already witnessed several historic feats: the first commercial spacecraft to reach the station, the first landings of an orbital-class rocket.  Boeing, which along with SpaceX has a contract to fly astronauts to the space station, is building its own control room at Cape Canaveral Florida.

Now the two companies are getting closer to restoring the United States’ ability to fly humans again. And with the growth of the commercial space industry, which also promises to soon start flying paying tourists, there is much history yet to be written.

Houston is home to NASA’s Mission Control Facilities

(Deepak Chetty and R.B. Brenner)

The Johnson Space Center is home to astronaut flight training and to Mission Control -- the current facility as well as the historic room used during the Apollo and Gemini missions.

Today Mission Control monitors commercial launches and tracks the International Space Station

(Deepak Chetty and R.B. Brenner)

The modern mission control is primarily tasked with monitoring the astronauts aboard the international space station (ISS) and overseeing the flights that support the ISS.

Mission Control oversaw the Apollo space flights and helped save the Apollo 13 crew

(Deepak Chetty and R.B. Brenner)

NASA has preserved the 1969 control room, allowing a glimpse into the facility that once defined America’s technical achievements and creativity in the face of challenges like the Apollo 13 mission.

About this project

This story was done in collaboration with the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin.