Mission Control: Inventing the Groundwork of Spaceflight
In Mission Control, Michael Johnson explores the famous Johnson Space Center in Houston, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, and the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany—each a strategically designed micro-environment responsible for the operation of spacecraft and the safety of passengers. He explains the motivations behind the location of each center and their intricate design. He shows how the robotic spaceflight missions overseen in Pasadena and Darmstadt set these centers apart from Houston, and compares the tracking networks used for different types of spacecraft.

Johnson argues that the type of spacecraft and the missions they controlled—not the nations they represented—defined how the centers developed, yet these centers ended up playing vital national roles as space technology became a battleground for international power struggles in the Cold War years and even after. The most visible part of a conflict that was just as real as the wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan and caused great global anxiety, mission control centers have served as symbols of national security in the public eye and pivotal links in the history of modern technology.

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