Eugene "Gene" Kranz had been looking forward to yesterday for years to give back to the school that launched his space career.
The former National Aeronautics and Space Administration flight director made famous by actor Ed Harris' portrayal of him in the film Apollo 13 yesterday was awarded the space agency's Ambassador of Exploration Award at his alma mater, Central Catholic High School.
Mr. Kranz, a native of West Toledo and 1951 Central Catholic graduate, promptly gave the award to the school, which he said gave him fundamental knowledge in math and science and developed his character.
The awards, which recognize the dedication of those involved in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, remain the property of NASA.
Mr. Kranz was given the award by his daughter, Lucy Kranz, associate director of the NASA Johnson Space Center.
"In 1951, Central was my launching point for moving into the military and eventually getting into space," Mr. Kranz said.
"In looking back, it almost seemed there was some master plan that guided my direction, guided me throughout the journey to a place called mission control and later to the moon."
Mr. Kranz said he wanted the award displayed at the high school because dreams are born during that time, as was his love of aviation.
During his 34-year career with the country's space program, Mr. Kranz served on teams that managed more than 100 missions, including the near-disaster of Apollo 13.
The movie attributed to him the words, "failure is not an option." In reality, the speech was much longer, but Mr. Kranz said he agreed with the movie line as a summary.
Mr. Kranz also was the flight director for the Apollo 11 mission that landed another Ohioan, Neil Armstrong, and Buzz Aldrin on the moon.
"I never believed that one day I would be a member of the team that would plant an American flag on the moon and today we will place a piece of this moon in your library," Mr. Kranz told the students.
The moon rock encased in Lucite was placed in a room in the library renovated for its display. The Stars Planets And Creative Exploration, or SPACE, room has enlarged photographs of Mr. Kranz, a paper he wrote in high school about spaceflight, and a number of books about space.
Mr. Kranz said he hopes the moon rock will help encourage students to take up difficult subjects.
"Young people are basically optimistic and they are the ones to take the risk to make things happen," he said.
Shawnteal Peery, a senior who turns 18 today, recorded Mr. Kranz saying "nothing is impossible" into her camera yesterday after the award presentation.
She heard him speak a few years ago when he visited Central Catholic and was moved by his passion that you can do anything. For Ms. Peery, that means getting into the University of Chicago to study political science.
"Ever since I saw him speak, I've really admired that philosophy," she said. "Nothing is impossible. If you really want something to happen, it will as long as you try hard enough."
The Rev. Dennis Hartigan, president of Central Catholic, said that great minds have long looked to the heavens for inspiration and thanked Mr. Kranz for giving the school a symbol of that.
"We can gaze on something that humanity has looked on for thousands and thousands of years," he said. "We are truly blessed to have a piece of that inspiration here."
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