Two distinguished names have been added to the list of NASA’s first generation of explorers honored as Ambassadors of Exploration.

They include a man considered the architect of Mission Control, designing systems from the ground up and known to many in the early days of space exploration simply as “Flight.” The other will be forever linked to the phrase “Failure is not an option,” and is remembered for his flat-top hairstyle and relentless dedication to mission success.

Christopher C. Kraft and Eugene F. Kranz join an eminent list of honorees that include astronauts Alan Shepard, U.S. Sen. John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.

NASA’s Ambassadors of Exploration are presented a unique award that includes a moon rock to recognize the sacrifices and dedication of the astronauts and others who were part of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs.

“The early years of our nation’s space program had 400,000 heroes, not just the astronauts who took the first tentative steps into space,” said Administrator Michael Griffin. “The managers, engineers, flight directors, the mathematicians and computer programmers, the technicians and construction workers, all of these carried what was in some ways the heaviest responsibility of all.”

“Through their work, they held the lives of other men in their hands. And no one in those early years carried this responsibility more visibly, or with more grace and fortitude, than did ‘Red Flight’ Chris Kraft and ‘White Flight’ Gene Kranz. And no two people are more deserving of the title ‘Ambassador of Exploration’ than these men. I have been privileged to know them, and to confer this recognition upon them,” Griffin said.

The award celebrates the realization of a vision for exploration first articulated 45 years ago next month by President John F. Kennedy, who was looking to bolster a nation and a fledgling space program. It was a mandate to extend humanity’s reach further into the cosmos.

Kraft began his career as an aeronautical engineer with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, predecessor of NASA, and later became an original member of the Space Task Group for NASA in 1958. He was the agency’s first flight director, responsible for developing the technologies and procedures for ground operations for Project Mercury. Kraft served as flight director throughout Mercury, including Shepard’s historic first spaceflight and Glenn’s orbital mission. He later moved up to director of flight operations throughout the entire Apollo program.

He is considered the father of Mission Control and later became the director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston from 1972 to 1982.

Kranz joined the Air Force in 1954 and flew jet fighter aircraft. He was selected to join the Space Task Group in 1960 and was assigned as assistant flight director. His first duty as flight director came in 1965 for Gemini 4, which featured the first spacewalk by an American astronaut. Kranz was flight director for Apollo 11 and led the team that helped to safely return the crew of Apollo 13 back to Earth. He later became director of NASA mission operations and retired in 1994 shortly after the space shuttle flight that repaired the ailing Hubble Space Telescope.

To date, NASA has presented 13 of the nearly 40 lunar samples awarded as part of the Ambassadors of Exploration initiative. The award was first announced in July 2004 on the 35th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Tuesday afternoon in Cincinnati, Griffin is scheduled to present the award to Armstrong, a former naval aviator and NASA test pilot. As Apollo 11 commander, Armstrong was the first human to ever land a spacecraft on the moon and the first to step on the lunar surface. The presentation can be seen live on NASA TV and on the Web at at 11:15 a.m. EDT.

For information about the Ambassadors of Exploration award, the exploration of the moon and the Vision for Space Exploration, visit: