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Apollo 11 Launch Flight Director's Loop

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This video begins with a countdown to the T-5:00 "mark." At T-5:00, the swing arm to the Saturn 5 rocket began to retract and the final part of the countdown to launch began. At this point, lots of things start to happen leading up to launch. This video continues through the launch and Apollo's safe entry into its low-earth orbit (LEO) phase. 

Apollo Mission Control Flight Director Cliff Charlesworth' and his team in the Mission Operations Control Room at the Johnson Space Center in Houston took control of Apollo 11 as soon as it cleared its launch tower. Until then, the launch center at Kennedy in Florida controlled the actual firing of the rocket and the first approximately 400-feet of its flight.

Control passed to Houston upon the call, "Cleared the tower" which means the very bottommost part of the Saturn 5 rocket cleared the very topmost structure of the launch tower.

NASA had a complex set of two-way intercom channels called "loops" to facilitate communication among the global support team for all flights. We civilians usually heard the "PAO" (public affairs officer") commentary mixed with other communications from the loops that were intended for the public. This video carries the Flight Director's loop which is the seniormost "all business" loop.

When you hear the moniker "Flight," it is shorthand for Flight Director Cliff Charlesworth. Some of the other loops (not heard in this recording) went to the "back rooms" where entire support teams were working to support the flight controllers. On their consoles, flight controllers in the MOCR had switches to select which of the loops to join.

The Flight Director ("Flight") is the seniormost of the flight controllers on the team. By standard operations procedures, "Flight" is the sole "boss" of the mission; all final decisions are made by the Flight Director. Even more senior tier-1 NASA management might offer suggestions or recommendations, but the Flight Director had the final call.

Mission Operations Control Room 2 (MOCR 2) and Flight-Controller Acronyms