Virginia Tech remembers alum and space pioneer Chris Kraft

Kraft died Monday at 95 years old

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Just days after we honored the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, we're remembering one of the key people who made it happen.

Chris Kraft, NASA's flight director during Apollo 11 and a Virginia Tech alum, died Monday at 95 years old.

Kraft graduated from Virginia Tech in 1944, but his influence there has continued ever since, as he put more than just a man on the moon, but Hokie nation on the map.

"Chris is someone who I think represents the best of Virginia Tech," Kraft's friend Tom Tillar said. "I can't personally think of any other alum who's had more of an impact."

Tillar learned about Kraft when he became NASA's first flight director. That was before his most famous role in 1969. Years later, they became friends.

"You didn't have the sense that I’m really sitting with Chris Kraft. I'm just sitting with this very, very nice individual who is my friend and will always be my friend," Tillar said.

Kraft never stopped supporting his alma mater, donating hundreds of flight mission documents and even a moon rock. They are treasures that the university still has on display, but they are not as special as the memories Tillar holds onto, like stories of Kraft's groundbreaking leadership in the '60s.

"He said to me 'The list they brought did not include any African Americans or women and I gave it back and said bring me another list,'" Tillar said.

Tillar also shared the few words Kraft passed along to him about the Apollo 11 mission.

"It was great when we had the launch, my goal was to bring them back," Tillar said, reflecting on Kraft’s words.

Tillar said he’ll always remember the Hokie who changed the world by going beyond its limits.

"You can't say enough for the impact and the legacy that Chris will have for hundreds of years," Tillar said.

Virginia Tech credits Kraft not only for the success of its aeronautics program, but also for the two Hokie graduates turned-astronauts who have traveled to space.

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