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Christopher C. Kraft, Jr.

Headshot of Christopher Kraft, Jr.

B.S., Aeronautical Engineering, 1944

When Christopher C. Kraft, Jr. won the 1999 National Space Trophy from Rotary International, the group described him as “a driving force in the U.S. human space flight program from its beginnings to the Space Shuttle era, a man whose accomplishments have become legendary.”

Dr. Kraft’s career is indeed phenomenal. He was instrumental in the decision to land an astronaut on the moon. He led the planning and operational control of programs from the two suborbital Mercury missions through Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and the Apollo Soyuz/ test project. He was deeply involved in the development of the Space Shuttle. During its definition an d design studies, he played a vital role in the decision making process that created the Space Shuttle program, and he determined the initial configuration of the Space Shuttle system, a new concept in space transportation. Dr. Kraft was the Director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Lyn don B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas from January 1972 to August 1982.

A native Virginian, the influence of high school teachers led him to his choice of engineering as a profession. Graduating from Virginia Tech in 1944 with a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering, he immediately joined the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the precursor of NASA. In October 1958, Dr. Kraft was selected as one of the original members of the Space Task Group, the organization established to manage the Project Mercury. The group developed the basic concepts of the Mercury Project that launched the human space flight program for the United States. He person ally served as the flight director for all of the Mercury missions and many of the Gemini missions. His contributions to the space program were recognized by Time magazine when it selected him for its cover photo in the August 27, 1965 issue.

Dr. Kraft retired from NASA in 1982. Throughout his retirement, Dr. Kraft consulted for Rockwell International, IBM, and a number of other companies.

Sadly, Dr. Kraft passed away in July 2019.

Select Awards and Recognitions

  • Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Fellow of the American Astronautical Society
  • NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal from the President of the United States, 1963
  • Spirit of St. Louis Medal from the American Society of
  • Mechanical Engineers (ASME), 1965
  • Virginian of the Year Award from the Virginia Press Association, 1967
  • ASME Medal, 1973
  • Goddard Memorial Trophy from the National Space Club in 1979
  • NASA Distinguished Service Medal, four times over.