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    Jeannie Kranz  @ NASA He took the torch: leadership lessons from my father – Gene Kranz

    It was not until I joined the space program as a summer intern in 1984 that I really understood my father’s role in the space program or NASA’s importance to our nation. Now, 23 years after that internship, NASA has been a significant part of my career, and the lessons of Dad’s leadership are applied daily.

    As I was growing up, all I knew was that dad worked for NASA, mom stayed home, I had five siblings, all older than me, four of them girls, and new clothes were a scarce commodity. My world was hand-me-downs and trying to keep pace with my older brother and sisters.

    As “Dad,” not NASA’s “Gene Kranz,” he always was painstakingly organized, operated from a checklist for even simple “honey-dos,” embarrassed us kids with the way he dressed and was always a “play by the rules” kind of man. He was very engaged with us growing up; if the character role of Ward Cleaver was based on anyone real, it likely was my dad.

    His daily routine consisted of a very methodical morning – breakfast, good day wishes to all the kids before school and the predictable statement to my mother as he kissed her walking out the door, “Have I told you I love you today?”

    Smithsonian: Gene Kranz's Apollo Vest
    Kranz’s wife, Marta, created the garment that would establish a Mission Control tradition. In 1962, when the Kranzes moved into a Houston neighborhood peopled by other space-program families, “all the wives sewed, and I began making vests for Gene,” she recalls. “Gene wanted some kind of symbol for his team to rally around. I suggested a vest.” The color, she adds, was not left to choice: “There were three Mission Control teams—red, white and blue—and Gene’s was the white team, so his vests were always white.” (Marta Kranz also made colorful vests for her husband to wear when celebrating splashdowns. At the successful conclusion of Apollo 13, however, relief replaced celebration; the white vest stayed on.)

    “I started wearing a vest during Gemini 4, and it was an immediate hit,” Kranz recalls. “From then on, I put on a new vest on the first shift of every mission.” Ultimately, according to NASM curator Margaret Weitekamp, Kranz’s Apollo 13 vest would not only become a morale booster for his team, but also “a symbol for something much bigger than that”—the can-do spirit summed up in the title of Kranz’s autobiography, Failure Is Not an Option.

    For the 1995 movie, the studio was determined to fashion an exact replica. But the task turned out to be more complicated than Apollo 13’s costume designers anticipated. Marta Kranz had used faille, a fine-grained fabric of silk, satin or cotton, particularly popular during the 1950s. “When I told [the movie people] what it’s made of,” Marta recalls, “I don’t think they knew what I was talking about.” Soon, 29 swatches of sample fabrics arrived in her mail—but none were, so to speak, the right stuff. Then, she adds, “someone found off-white faille in a film warehouse.”

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