Nation: The Masters of Mission Control

THE courage of Apollo 13's three astronauts was apparent to all the world. A less conspicuous kind of courage was displayed on the ground. Inside the windowless Building 30 of NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center outside Houston, hundreds of engineers and technicians assembled to guide the crippled spacecraft through its four-day ordeal. Perhaps the coolest and most professional of them were the two young flight director—Glynn Lunney, 33, and Gene Kranz, 36—who were at the helm in Mission Control during the first hours of crisis.

Kranz, a crew-cut and clip-voiced former test pilot, was just...

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