When the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission concluded, the mission control room in Houston, Texas, filled with smiles, cheers and American flags. The flight controllers has just successfully put a man on the moon, two in fact, and brought them back to Earth safely.

For decades the room served as the office for controllers responsible for all of the Apollo and Gemini missions. In 1995 a new mission control was built at the Johnson Space Center where NASA missions are now controlled from, including those on the International Space Station. When the new control room was built the original one was turned into “historic Mission Control.” Empty and dull, the historic room lost the liveliness it was once filled with, but new plans are in the works to bring it back.

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“We want it to look like you stepped back into time,” Paul Spana, the exhibits director at Space Center Houston told International Business Times. The Center started a crowdfunding campaign two weeks ago, on the anniversary of Apollo 11, to raise funds to restore the historic mission control room. The room and those that surround it are currently a stop on the tour Space Center Houston gives of the Johnson Space Center. “It looks like an empty room, the consoles are in there, there’s chairs, but it’s not alive,” Spana said.

Space Center Houston is a nonprofit organization that works closely with NASA as the official visitors center for NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas. “It needed to be restored, NASA just didn’t have the funding in the budget,” Gayden Cooper, vice president of communications and external relations at Space Center Houston, told IBT. “But they also care about this so they reached out to us to see if we could help them,” Cooper said.

historic mission control nasa Flight Director Jay H. Greene and Lt. Gen. James A. Abrahamson at the Mission Control Center, now the "historic" Mission Control, in 1983. Photo: NASA

The Center took on the challenge of restoring the historic room. The plan is to have it completely restored for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 2019. “When we restore it, the goal is to restore it to the way it looked on July 20, 1969, when the first man had landed on the moon and everyone was celebrating,” Cooper said.

The restoration will include historic Mission Control and the other rooms near it, like the VIP viewing area, the “bat cave” and a simulation room.

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“A big difference you’ll see with the restoration compared to what you may see today is that the consoles are clean and sterile it’s missing that human element,” Spana said. Photos from the control room in its heyday show desks cluttered with binders, coffee mugs and ashtrays. Today the consoles are empty, the room is just the barebones of what it used to be.

The center is still in the fundraising stages of the restoration, but those working on the project have already started doing research to make the room look as realistic as possible when the time comes. “Of course photographs are a tremendous help, we’re going through thousands of photos,” Spana said. But they’ve also been talking to former flight controllers. During a reunion event recently the team seized the opportunity to get first-hand accounts of what the room used to look like from the people who actually worked there. “We also asked them what were some of the items they had on their desk, what made that desk unique to them? We want to try to recreate those consoles,” Spana explained.

The consoles aren’t the only part of the room getting a makeover. The large screens that loom in the background of photos from Mission Control will be adjusted to look like they did during the Apollo 11 mission.

Since the crowdfunding campaign for the restoration of the control room was launched, more than 2,500 people all over the world have made donations. “Restoring this mission control [room] is something that’s important to people around the world,” Cooper said, “It really resonates with people.”

The overall goal is to raise $5 million for the restoration and Space Center Houston is well on its way. The city of Webster, Texas, situated next to the center donated $3.1 million so far and agreed to match up to $400,000 in donations that come from the crowdfunding campaign. “It was used for a long time but the Apollo 11 mission was a highlight, another highlight was Apollo 13, that tragedy was averted from that room,” Spana said, “We want to bring it to life.”

apollo 13 houston A number of NASA Apollo 13 officials working in the Mission Control Center responding to the news of a failed oxygen tank on board the craft. Photo: NASA