Christopher Columbus "Chris" Kraft Jr. (born February 28, 1924) is a retired American NASA engineer and manager who was instrumental in establishing the agency's Mission Control operation. Following his graduation from Virginia Tech in 1944, Kraft was hired by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the predecessor organization to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He worked for over a decade in aeronautical research before being asked in 1958 to join the Space Task Group, a small team entrusted with the responsibility of putting America's first man in space. Assigned to the flight operations division, Kraft became NASA's first flight director. He was on duty during such historic missions as America's first manned spaceflight, first manned orbital flight, and first spacewalk.