The Kranz Dictum

Eugene Francis “Gene” Kranz (born August 17, 1933) is a retired NASA Flight Director and manager. Kranz served as a Flight Director, the successor to NASA founding Flight Director Chris Kraft, during the Gemini and Apollo programs, and is best known for his role in directing the successful Mission Control team efforts to save the crew of Apollo 13, which later became the subject story of a major motion picture of the same name. He is also noted for his trademark close-cut flattop hairstyle, and the wearing of dapper white “mission” vests (waistcoats), of different styles and materials made by Mrs. Kranz, during missions for which he acted as Flight Director. A personal friend to the American astronauts of his time, Kranz remains a prominent and colorful figure in the history of U.S. manned space exploration, literally, the embodiment of ‘NASA tough-and-competent’ of the Kranz Dictum. Kranz has been the subject of movies, documentary films, and books and periodical articles. Kranz is the recipient of a Presidential Medal of Freedom

The Kranz Dictum

Following the Apollo 1 disaster that killed Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee Kranz called a meeting of his branch and flight control team on the Monday morning . Kranz made the following address to the gathering (The Kranz Dictum), in which his expression of values and admonishments for future spaceflight are his legacy to NASA:

“Spaceflight will never tolerate carelessness, incapacity, and neglect. Somewhere, somehow, we screwed up. It could have been in design, build, or test. Whatever it was, we should have caught it. We were too gung ho about the schedule and we locked out all of the problems we saw each day in our work. Every element of the program was in trouble and so were we. The simulators were not working, Mission Control was behind in virtually every area, and the flight and test procedures changed daily. Nothing we did had any shelf life. Not one of us stood up and said, ‘Dammit, stop!’ I don’t know what Thompson’s committee will find as the cause, but I know what I find. We are the cause! We were not ready! We did not do our job. We were rolling the dice, hoping that things would come together by launch day, when in our hearts we knew it would take a miracle. We were pushing the schedule and betting that the Cape would slip before we did. From this day forward, Flight Control will be known by two words: ‘Tough’ and ‘Competent.’ Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do or what we fail to do. We will never again compromise our responsibilities. Every time we walk into Mission Control we will know what we stand for. Competent means we will never take anything for granted. We will never be found short in our knowledge and in our skills. Mission Control will be perfect. When you leave this meeting today you will go to your office and the first thing you will do there is to write ‘Tough and Competent’ on your blackboards. It will never be erased. Each day when you enter the room these words will remind you of the price paid by Grissom, White, and Chaffee. These words are the price of admission to the ranks of Mission Control.”

After the Space Shuttle Columbia accident in 2003, NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe quoted this speech in a discussion about what changes should be made in response to the disaster. Referring to the words “tough and competent,” he said, “These words are the price of admission to the ranks of NASA and we should adopt it that way.”

Deskarati recommends viewing the excellent 1995 film Apollo 13 where the character of Gene Kranz is played wonderfully by Ed Harris

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