• Post category:Reknowned People
  • Reading time:5 mins read

Gene Kranz is an American aerospace engineer, a former fighter pilot, and a retired NASA Flight Director and manager. He worked at U.S. Air Force, and flew high-performance jet fighter aircraft, including the F-80, F-86, and F-100. In 1958, he worked as a flight-test engineer for McDonnell Aircraft, developing the Quail Decoy Missile for B-52 and B-47 aircraft. Kranz joined the NASA Space Task Group at Langley, Virginia, in 1960, and was assigned the position of assistant flight director for Project Mercury.

He assumed flight director duties for all Project Gemini Missions and was branch chief for Flight Control Operations. He was selected as division chief for Flight Control in 1968, and continued his duties as a flight director for the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing before taking over the leadership of the Apollo 13 “Tiger Team.” He was discharged from the Air Force Reserve as a Captain in 1972.

Gene Kranz (in vest, as Apollo 13 safely splashed down) had faith that "as a group, we were smart enough ... to get out of any problem. (Associated Press)
Gene Kranz (in vest, as Apollo 13 safely splashed down) had faith that “as a group, we were smart enough … to get out of any problem. (Associated Press)

He is best known for directing the successful efforts by the Mission Control team to save the crew of Apollo 13 and was later portrayed in the major motion picture of the same name by actor Ed Harris. He is also noted for his close-cut flattop hairstyle and the dapper “mission” vests (waistcoats) of different styles and materials made by his wife, Marta Kranz, for his Flight Director missions.

Gene Kranz's Iconic Waist at Smithsonian Museum
Gene Kranz’s Iconic Waist at Smithsonian Museum

Kranz Dictum

He coined the phrase “tough and competent”, which became known as the “Kranz Dictum”. This was part of his address to the Flight control team, after Apollo 1 disaster.

Spaceflight will never tolerate carelessness, incapacity, and neglect. Somewhere, somehow, we screwed up. It could have been in design, build, or test. Whatever it was, we should have caught it. We were too gung ho about the schedule and we locked out all of the problems we saw each day in our work. Every element of the program was in trouble and so were we. The simulators were not working, Mission Control was behind in virtually every area, and the flight and test procedures changed daily. Nothing we did had any shelf life. Not one of us stood up and said, “Dammit, stop!” I don’t know what Thompson’s committee will find as the cause, but I know what I find. We are the cause! We were not ready! We did not do our job. We were rolling the dice, hoping that things would come together by launch day, when in our hearts we knew it would take a miracle. We were pushing the schedule and betting that the Cape would slip before we did.

From this day forward, Flight Control will be known by two words: “Tough” and “Competent”. Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do or what we fail to do. We will never again compromise our responsibilities. Every time we walk into Mission Control we will know what we stand for. Competent means we will never take anything for granted. We will never be found short in our knowledge and in our skills. Mission Control will be perfect. When you leave this meeting today you will go to your office and the first thing you will do there is to write “Tough and Competent” on your blackboards. It will never be erased. Each day when you enter the room these words will remind you of the price paid by Grissom, White, and Chaffee. These words are the price of admission to the ranks of Mission Control.

Gene Kranz
 S65-22203 (April 1965) -- Prior to the Gemini-Titan 4 mission, flight director Eugene F. Kranz is pictured during a simulation at the Flight Director console in Houston's Mission Control Center on the Manned Spacecraft Center site. GT-4 was the first mission to be at least partially controlled from the Houston site. Photo credit: NASA
S65-22203 (April 1965) — Prior to the Gemini-Titan 4 mission, flight director Eugene F. Kranz is pictured during a simulation at the Flight Director console in Houston’s Mission Control Center on the Manned Spacecraft Center site. GT-4 was the first mission to be at least partially controlled from the Houston site. Photo credit: NASA

Kranz has been the subject of movies, documentary films, and books, and periodical articles. Kranz is a recipient of a Presidential Medal of Freedom. In a 2010 Space Foundation survey, Kranz was ranked as the #2 most popular space hero.

Some famous quotes of Gene Kranz—

“To recognize that the greatest error is not to have tried and failed, but that in trying, we did not give it our best effort”

“You can not operate in this room unless you believe that you are Superman, and whatever happens, you’re capable of solving the problem.”

“Faliure is not an option.”

“There is no such thing as good enough. You, your team, and your equipment must be the best. That is how you will win victories.”

“Apollo succeeded at critical moments like this because the bosses had no hesitation about assigning crucial tasks to one individual, trusting his judgment, and then getting out of his way.”

“if you ask enough people, you’ll find someone who will disagree with the majority and give those nervous about risk a way out.”

“It isn’t equipment that wins the battles; it is the quality and the determination of the people fighting for a cause in which they believe.”

“always hire people who are smarter and better than you are and learn with them.”

Leave a Reply