Science & Tech

Comms: Mission Control Evolution and Operations

Chris Hadfield

Lesson time 18:44 min

The first words spoken from the Moon were directed to Mission Control for a reason. Learn how Mission Control functions and why it is so critical to the success of a mission to space.

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Topics include: Evolving From Launch Control to Mission Control • Mission Control Around the World • Russian Mission Control • A Constant Web of Information • Listen for the Quindar Tone • CAPCOM: Be the Crew’s Trusted Liason


Columbia, Houston. We hope you enjoyed your lunch. And we're back with you to west. Columbia, Houston. We're two minutes to an early handover. Should just be a momentary interruption. No need to respond. The first word spoken from the moon was, in fact, not Tranquility Base or one small step. But in fact, it was Houston, Houston Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed. Houston is mission control. That's where a group of experts were sitting in a room, watching all that information come back from the lunar lander from where Neil and Buzz had just managed to touch down on the surface of the moon. But it's really, I think, significant that the first word from the surface of the moon was talking about mission control. The first American in space was, of course, Al Shepard. He launched out of Florida and didn't even go all the way around the world. Just launched, got up into space, 62 miles, 100 kilometers, above the surface of the world, floated down, and then landed just in the Atlantic on the other side of the Bahamas. Only about a 15 minute flight. You didn't really need mission control for a flight like that. It was only 15 minutes long. And what we really needed was launch control. The people in Florida needed to have all of the information. He wasn't even going to disappear over the horizon. You could do the whole thing with launch control. But if you think about it, as soon as you get going fast enough to not just go up and fall down again, but to start to orbit the world, launch control isn't going to be enough. You now need to be able to talk to the astronaut when they're coming over Africa or all the way around Australia or coming around the world. How are you going to provide communications to them and help when they have a technical problem so that you can make the mission as successful as possible? And sort of by inevitable progression, launch control had to become more and more capable so that they could, if the mission was once around the world, which is an hour and a half or so, 100 minutes, like Yuri Gagarin's first flight was once around, about a 100 minute flight, you need to start developing more capability in the team that's on the ground supporting the flight. And the longer the flight goes, the less you need launch control and the more you need an overall mission control. And then of course, mission control doesn't need to be in the same place you launched from. Because the requirements are not necessarily aligned. You need the group of people at the launch site, which makes sense for, this is why we launch rockets here. But mission control can be somewhere completely different. And it is. In the United States, we launch from Florida. But mission control is in Houston. In Russia, they launch from Baikonur Kazakhstan. But mission control is in Moscow. Very early in the space program, we didn't have relay satellites, satellites that would carry our voices all the way around th...

About the Instructor

Impossible things happen. At age nine, Chris Hadfield knew he wanted to go to space. He eventually went there three times, becoming a commander of the International Space Station. In his MasterClass, Chris teaches you what it takes to explore space and what the future holds for humans in the final frontier. Learn about the science of space travel, life as an astronaut, and how flying in space will forever change the way you think about living on Earth.

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Chris Hadfield

The former commander of the International Space Station teaches you the science of space exploration and what the future holds.

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