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Top 50 Hokies - Chris Kraft

By Pat Rouleau | July 22
Chris Kraft

Hokies have made their mark across all industries, ranging from athletics to television and the classroom. One of the industries that may not get as much attention for producing Hokies is aeronautical engineering and space. Chris Kraft was one of the most influential Hokies to walk across the Drillfield and later, cast a giant footprint working for NASA.

Chris Kraft was born on February 28, 1924, in Phoebus, Virginia, and made the nearly 300 mile trip to Blacksburg, where he majored in Aeronautical Engineering. During his two years at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Kraft was a member of the Corps of Cadets and was named President of the Corps, which later became one of his fondest memories as a student. Because of a hand injury Kraft suffered as a young child, he was unable to join the military during World War II. After graduating in 1944, he started working for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), where he was responsible for the creation of a mission control center.

In the late 1950s, Mr. Kraft was asked to join the NASA Space Task Group, where one of his main objectives was to develop the spacecraft, especially as it pertained to the safety of astronauts. He also contributed to the evolution of space-to-ground communication, space-tracking and real-time problem-solving. While at NASA, he served as the Director of Flight Operations for the Apollo program, as well as playing a key role in several other high-profile projects. In 2011, NASA named its Mission Control Center after Mr. Kraft.

After his retirement from NASA, Kraft served as a consultant for organizations like IBM and Rockwell International. Mr. Kraft has been the recipient of numerous awards, some of which include:

  • NASA Outstanding Leadership Model
  • NASA Distinguished Service Medals (four times)
  • Virginia Tech Distinguished Alumnus Citation
  • Distinguished Citizen Award, City of Hampton, Virginia
  • John F. Kennedy Astronautics Award
  • Rotary National Award for Space Achievement