Christopher C. Kraft Jr.: From VPI to Mission Control

Christopher Columbus Kraft Jr. is a Class of 1944, Virginia Tech graduate born February 28, 1924, in the small town of Phoebus, Virginia. Growing up, Chris knew everyone in his town, and they knew him.

Despite growing up in the Depression era, Kraft enjoyed his childhood. One event that drastically affected his future was a fall into a fire at age 3 that badly burnt his right hand. This burn would later keep Kraft from entering the service during WWII, making him one of the few students who were able to continue their education despite wartime demands.

Once Kraft entered Virginia Tech, the university was operating on a 12-month schedule because of WWII, and he graduated in just 2 years with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering. By age 20, Kraft was a Tech graduate, a former Corps of Cadets President, and a man with a job at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). Kraft went on from this early position as a flight test engineer to becoming flight director and eventually developing the US version of a mission control center.

Kraft now has more awards than he can count. Medals, magazine covers, and never-ending praise are just by-products of his revolutionary roles at NACA where he changed the trajectory of man’s future in space. Looking back on his life and the chain of events that led him to where he is today, Kraft recalls humble beginnings and a fervency for leadership that was developed during his time as an undergraduate at Virginia Tech.

“I think, in terms of leadership. I said that in my book, too. I don’t remember anyplace in my career where I got taught leadership as much as I got taught self-leadership by having to be an officer in the Corps.”Christopher C. Kraft Jr.

Kraft shares that his mother, “the greatest woman he’s ever known”, was the person who made his education possible and sent him to Virginia Tech. Kraft recalls Virginia Tech as being the greatest time of his life, except for being a flight director. His extensive role in NACA (now NASA) was a “fortuitous” event but he credits Virginia Tech experiences with his leadership skills.

“Virginia Tech gave me the opportunity to be an educated person, and they did a fine job of it in many ways. They continue to expand on that capability, and I think they are one of the best universities in the country as a result of that. I would have not gone anywhere without Virginia Tech.”Christopher C. Kraft Jr.

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About this Story

Date Recorded: April 29, 2017

Interviewer: Ren Harman

Date Posted: September 29, 2017

Editor: Ren Harman

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