Bulletin Columns

IWKnights Corner (Bulletin Insert) for March 17, 2019

Did you know this about the IW Knights of Columbus?

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson and Gene Kranz hold a vest that was given to Kranz by Marine Corps pilots at Naval Air Station Kingsville. The supreme knight visited Kranz in September 2017, following Hurricane Harvey, as local councils assisted with relief efforts. Photo by Rocky Kneten.

During the days of NASA's Apollo program one of the heroes was a flight director named Gene Kranz.  He was as much a headliner as were the astronauts.  He is also a longtime Knight of Columbus. Here is an introduction to Gene's background with a stop in StL.

"On Gene Kranz’s desk, next to military memorabilia, model fighter planes and a space shuttle mockup, sits a framed photo of three beaming religious sisters.

Long before Kranz, 85, became a NASA legend — the coolheaded flight director of the moon landing of Apollo 11 and the near catastrophe of Apollo 13 — these sisters set him on the path to Mission Control.

It was Sister Patricia, Sister Caroline and Sister Mark at Central Catholic High School in Toledo, Ohio, who helped Kranz receive a nomination to the Naval Academy.  And, when he unfortunately failed his physical to enter the academy, it was the sisters who arranged his scholarship loan to aviation school in St. Louis.

“Without their help, my career would have ended right there,” said Kranz, a longtime member of Father Roach Council 3217 in Dickinson, Texas.

But it didn’t end there, of course. Kranz instead went on to work 34 years at NASA, where, sporting a headset, a flat-top haircut, and one of his signature vests, he launched men into space and brought them safely back to earth.

He is perhaps most renowned for the latter: Kranz led the engineers that guided the Apollo 13 mission home after it was crippled by an onboard explosion.

'Houston, we’ve had a problem here,' astronaut Jack Swigert reported from space April 14, 1970.  For the next three nail-biting days, lead flight director Kranz and his team figured out how to fix that problem.

'We pulled off a miracle in Apollo 13.  We never should have been able to solve all the problems we faced,' Kranz said.  'But it was that culture of the people that would never surrender.  They would find a way.  … It was trust between the crew in the spacecraft and myself and my team.'

A day after the Apollo 13 crew landed, Kranz and his team, as well as the astronauts, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their work.

Ron Howard’s 1995 film Apollo 13, starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise and Ed Harris, breathed new life into the legend.  Kranz was portrayed by Harris, who earned an Oscar nomination and won the Screen Actors Guild Award for best supporting actor.

Throughout his career, Kranz never forgot where he came from.  He has approached his life and work with the perspective of his Catholic faith, which he says was shaped by various religious communities in Toledo, as well as at St. Louis University."

There is more to this article - find the link to the entirety of this article featured on the KofC.org web site at www.IWKnights.com/bulletin or at facebook.com/IWknights9981 and NOW on Twitter at twitter.com/IwKnights.

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