Let’s rewind to November 9, 1967. These consoles were abuzz with activity, preparing for the launch of Apollo 4, the first flight of the Saturn V rocket. This all-up test was particularly tense, because none of the three stages of the rocket had ever flown before. If any one stage failed in the beginning, the whole launch vehicle would be destroyed, and so would America’s chance to be reach John F. Kennedy’s goal of putting a man on our Moon before the end of the decade.
The men at these Apollo Launch Control consoles were responsible for the first harrowing moments of the flight, until the rocket cleared the launch tower. Then, responsibility would be handed off to Apollo Mission control at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. It took 12 seconds for the Saturn V to clear the tower. In these 12 seconds, if any one of the five F-1 engines shut down, the launch vehicle would be doomed to crash back to earth. These five engines simply had to work. It’s hard to imagine the pressure the people in this facility felt during those 12 seconds.
In the case of Apollo 4, and all the subsequent Apollo flights, every vehicle launched successfully under the control of these consoles. This infostructure used to reside in the Launch Control Center, as part of Launch Complex 39 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, but was relocated inside the nearby Apollo/Saturn V Center for the public to view.