As the leader of the “Tiger Team” of flight directors who brought the Apollo 13 spaceship safely back to Earth on April 17, 1970, Gene Kranz demonstrated extraordinary courage and heroism. The hit film, Apollo 13, chronicles Kranz’s struggle to devise the plan that would safely bring the ship and its crew of three astronauts home after its oxygen system failed. Actor Ed Harris portrays Kranz in the film, which was directed by Ron Howard.
Kranz retired from NASA in 1994 after 37 years of federal service and is currently a consultant and speaker. “Failure is not an option,” the motto that carried him through the Apollo 13 crisis, is a major theme of his motivational message.
After receiving his B.S. degree in aeronautical engineering from Parks College of St. Louis University in 1954, Kranz was commissioned in the 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.