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In the back row sit Mission Control's brass, overseeing the entire mission. Alongside Kraft sits NASA's Mission Director George Hage, who has direct lines from his console to the White House, the State Department and NASA's Washington headquarters, but who rarely plays a direct role during a mission. Near by is a Department of Defense representative, whose console has direct lines to all military forces supporting the mission, including recovery teams; for Apollo 11, Air Force Major General Vincent Huston was the Pentagon's man. During most missions, George M. Low, Apollo program manager, Dr. Robert R. Gilruth, director of the Manned Spacecraft Center, and other top officials also sit at the rear of the control room.

Hot Lines

There is far more to Mission Control, however, than the control room. For each console there is a staff support room down the hall manned by a dozen or more experts. Complete telemetry from the spacecraft is received by staff-room consoles, which funnel the most important bits to the control room and store the rest. The space program's major contractors—North American Rockwell for the command and service modules, Grumman for the lunar module—also keep staff members in nearby offices. In case of trouble with spacecraft equipment, the contractors can call major subcontractors on their own hot lines. Mission Control maintains an up-to-the-minute list of the whereabouts of some 40,000 key scientists and engineers associated with Apollo.

Beyond Houston, the communications web stretches around the earth—and above it. Key parts of the network are the huge radiotelescope dishes at Goldstone, Calif., Madrid, Spain, and Canberra, Australia, 17 ground stations, four U.S. Navy ships scattered over the seas and eight communications planes—all receiving and transmitting vital bits of data throughout the mission. No one is more aware than the astronauts themselves of how impossible a flight would be without such support.

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