Historic NASA Control Room Projection Screen Being Restored to Former Glory

It’s a scene familiar to many: A 10-foot by 20-foot screen in the center of a room. Lights flashing and consoles beeping all around. One glance and most of us recognize the setting as NASA mission control, also known as the Mission Control Room 2 or MOCR2 in Johnson Space Center, command central for such famous NASA flights as the Apollo 11 moon landing and 41 other missions that flew out of Houston in the 1960s through to the ‘90s.

Cutting-edge technology for its day, the MOCR2 is now retired and many of the components have fallen into disrepair. But not for long. A non-profit organization called the Manned Space Flight Education Foundation has launched a four-year, $5 million restoration project to preserve a piece of space travel history and inspire future generations of engineers, scientists, and astronauts, with the conclusion of the project to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing.

“NASA retired this room in the early ‘90s after flying most of the Gemini missions, all the Apollo missions, and many shuttle flights. This room had so much significance from the Apollo era, the goal is to preserve it as it was during that time [in the 1960s and ‘70s],” says George Weisinger, an AIA affiliate member specializing in reconstruction, restoration, and renovation projects who is closely involved in the project.

“Right now,” he says, “the room looks dead. When we’re done, all the clock panels will light up and function, all the consoles will light up and look alive, and the big screens will function.”

Houston Restoration, No Problem for Stewart Filmscreen
Restoring the screens, including the 10-by-20 rear projection system that serves as the central display, turned out to be easier than expected, thanks to the involvement of Don Stewart and the team at Stewart Filmscreen.

Although the team at Johnson Space Center couldn’t locate original equipment lists or product specs, Don Stewart knew exactly what screen had been designed and installed in 1992. “He had instant recall of the whole project,” says Weisinger. If the screen had to be replaced, Stewart Filmscreen still manufacturers the same model, the TechScreen 150, and could reformulate the exact chemical composition to make another screen just like the original—something only Stewart Filmscreen can accomplish. Another option was to employ specialized, proprietary techniques to re-apply the optical coating to restore the screen to its past condition.

“It’s impressive that Stewart Filmscreen has the depth of expertise and support to maximize the life of their product,” says Weisinger. “We’re accustomed to products in the consumer electronics marketplace being disposable. It’s really comforting that Stewart Filmscreen is able to support their product over decades.”

However, no screen replacement or complicated restoration solution was necessary. Once the screen was cleaned with guidance from the manufacturer, Weisinger said he was pleased to discover it could be used as-is. “We did a close inspection of the screen. There were no real maintenance-induced issues or problems with the coating. It’s held up perfectly,” he says. “Quite frankly, to have something that was installed 30 years ago and it’s still fully functional and in good shape just shows it was made by a quality manufacturer.

Decades of Innovation, Inspiration, and Excellence
As they did for decades before, new generations of aspiring astronauts and engineers can once again view this historic mission control center in action, with a custom Stewart Filmscreen projection screen as the focal point. “I’m old enough to remember sitting in my jammies on the floor watching John Glenn go into space,” Weisinger recalls. “All the launches were live, and it was a big deal. We were always watching mission control—the big screen with everything projected on it.”

A founding member of CEDIA, Weisinger draws parallels between NASA’s mission control and today’s home theater. “I think the concept of the large flat screen display and multiple video sources was implanted in the American psyche by mission control. NASA’s mission control is probably the primary genesis of what we now know as home theater.”

And, just like the screens installed in mission control in the ‘90s, today’s Stewart Filmscreen products are also built to last. “When you're investing in this kind of technology, it's a real good thing that it lasts,” says Weisinger. “Our experience has shown that the screens maintain their integrity for much longer than many people would assume they would.”

Blog, Screen Technology, Stewart Filmscreen, Apollo, TechScreen 150, NASA, Mission Control, Rear Projection

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