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Toledo Express Airport to be renamed today after NASA icon Gene Kranz

The Central Catholic High School graduate served as flight director for the Apollo 11 and 13 missions.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Editor’s note: The above video is from a 2019 story.

One of the most important figures in space and flight history is back in his hometown of Toledo this weekend as the city’s airport is renamed in his honor.

Starting Saturday morning, planes destined for the Glass City will land at the Eugene F. Kranz Toledo Express Airport. The renaming will become official during an invitation-only ceremony at 10 a.m.

Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz spoke publicly about his desire to rename the airport after Kranz as far back as 2018. In September 2019, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority board of directors voted unanimously to add the former NASA flight director’s name.

“Gene Kranz is a living legend and one of the icons of the American space program,” Kapszukiewicz said. “Simply put, without Gene Kranz, there is no moon landing on July 20, 1969. As Mr. Kranz returns to his hometown, I encourage all Toledoans to participate in the renaming ceremony and cheer our native son. This will be our chance to welcome home a hero and thank him for the inspiring example he has set for generations to come.” 

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A video link to watch a live stream of the ceremony will be available here.

Members of Kranz’s family will also be in Toledo for the event.

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“The Port Authority is honored that Eugene F. Kranz Toledo Express Airport is now named after such a world-renowned local icon known throughout the field of space and aeronautics across the globe,” said Thomas Winston, President and CEO of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “We are looking forward to officially honoring Mr. Kranz on May 22.”

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‘Failure is not an option’

Kranz was born in Toledo in 1933 and graduated from Central Catholic High School. He took an interest in flight at a young age and authored his high school thesis on the potential of flying a single-stage rocket to the moon.

After serving in the Korean War, he joined NASA in 1960 as one of the original Project Mercury assistant flight directors. Kranz was involved in developing flight operations for U.S. space missions and contributed to many developments in the space program.

Kranz played major roles in the Apollo 11 and Apollo 13 missions. 

He served as flight director for Apollo 11, the mission that saw man walk on the moon for the first time. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on July 20, 1969.

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Kranz is perhaps best known for his efforts to safely return the Apollo 13 crew to earth.

He served as flight director for the mission which launched April 11, 1970. On April 14, part of the service module exploded.

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Kranz led the White Team in setting constraints for the consumption of spacecraft consumables and controlled three course-correction burns during the trans-Earth trajectory. He was played by Ed Harris in the 1995 film “Apollo 13.”

Kranz is often attributed with saying “Failure is not an option” during the recovery efforts as depicted in the movie. In reality, Kranz gave an iteration of the quote in an interview with script writers before filming and it was added to the film and become the tagline for the project.

However, Kranz named his 2009 autobiography “Failure Is Not an Option.”

Kranz retired from NASA in 1994.

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