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Prince Rainier and Princess Grace Tour Manned Spacecraft Center (1968)


Sound | 1968

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  •  The royal party lands in Houston. The previous day, Prince Rainier and Princess Grace were in San Antonio to tour HemisFair ‘68. 
  •  Princess Grace is better known to American audiences as the Academy Award-winning actress Grace Kelly. She retired from acting in 1956, when she married Prince Rainier and began her royal duties.  
  •  The royal couple meets Dr. Robert Gilruth, director of the Manned Spacecraft Center, and Houston Mayor Louie Welch 
  •  NASA astronaut Gordon Cooper 
  •  Dr. Gilruth leads Princess Grace and Prince Rainier on a tour of the Manned Spacecraft Center campus 
  •  The royals inspect the Gemini 5 spacecraft. Commenting on the cramped quarters, Princess Grace reportedly told Dr. Gilruth, “I wouldn’t have been able to stand it.” 
  •  Film explaining the Saturn V launch vehicle 
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This news segment for Houston’s KPRC-TV captures Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace of Monaco on a visit to the Manned Spacecraft Center on September 27, 1968. According to the Associated Press, the royal couple first watched a short film about Project Apollo. They then toured the Mission Control Center and the space environmental laboratory.
As the scope of the American space program grew, NASA’s Space Task Group realized it would need to expand into its own facility if it were to successfully land a man on the Moon. In 1961, the agency’s selection team chose a 1,000-acre cow pasture in Houston, Texas, as the proposed center’s location site, owing to its access to water transport and commercial jet service, moderate climate, and proximity to Rice University. In September 1963, the facility opened as the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC). 
The Center became the focal point of NASA’s manned spaceflight program, developing spacecraft for Projects Gemini and Apollo, selecting and training astronauts, and operating the Lunar Receiving Laboratory. Beginning with Gemini 4 in June 1965, MSC’s Mission Control Center also took over flight control duties from the Mercury Control Center at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. As a result, the facility managed all subsequent manned space missions, including those related to Projects Gemini and Apollo, the Apollo Applications Program, the Space Shuttle Orbiters, and the International Space Station.
In 1973, the MSC was renamed in honor of the late President and Texas native Lyndon B. Johnson. (As Senate Majority Leader, Johnson sponsored the 1958 legislation that established NASA.) The Center continues to lead NASA’s efforts in space exploration, training both American and international astronauts, managing missions to and from the International Space Station, and operating scientific and medical research programs.