Proms pay space-aged tribute to Nasa engineer Christopher Kraft

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Media captionProms 2019: Nasa director honoured by Public Service Broadcasting

Christopher C Kraft, the man who founded Nasa’s mission control and oversaw the Apollo 11 moon landing, was honoured at the BBC Proms on Thursday.

Public Service Broadcasting dedicated their song Go to the engineer, who died on Monday, two days after the 50th anniversary of the landing.

The art-rock track samples radio communications between the landing module and ground control from 1969.

The song was taken from their top 20 concept album The Race For Space.

Released in 2015, it focused on the technological and ideological battle between the US and Russia as they pushed the frontiers of space exploration, using newsreel footage and Nasa’s own recordings to augment the music.

Apollo 11 flight director Gene Kranz, whose voice is heard on Go, endorsed the project, requesting his own copy of the album, musician J. Willgoose, Esq told the BBC.

Public Service Broadcasting, whose other albums have documented The Blitz and the decline of coal mines in Wales, were making their Proms debut.

The specially-arranged performance of their album was enhanced by the Multi-Storey Orchestra and the London Contemporary Voices Choir. There was even a dancing horn section, accompanied by two dancers in full spacesuits.

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Image caption

Christopher Kraft (centre) celebrates the first successful moon landing in July 1969

Christopher Kraft, who joined Nasa in 1958, developed the planning and control processes for crewed space missions.

He set up Nasa’s Mission Control operations to manage America’s first manned space flight and the subsequent Apollo missions to the Moon.

“At a time when there were no rules or procedures for space travel, Mr. Kraft, a brilliant aeronautical engineer, virtually wrote the book for Nasa,” said the New York Times in its obituary.

He developed many of the systems that made space exploration possible: Global tracking and communications networks; instruments to monitor the condition of astronauts; emergency procedures and the techniques for splashdowns and recoveries at sea, the newspaper added.

Kraft died in Houston on Monday at the age of 95. Nasa’s current chief Jim Bridenstine called him a “national treasure,” adding: “His legacy is immeasurable,”

The Race For Space Prom can be heard now on BBC Sounds, while the television broadcast is on BBC Four at 23:00 this Friday, 26 July.

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