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NASA Crew Keeps Eye On ISS At Houston's Johnson Space Center

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

As floodwaters rose around Houston, a lot of people heard from their employers, do not come into work. One of the critical people who did have to brave the elements was Royce Renfrew. And what does he do?

ROYCE RENFREW: I always answer that with the same question - if they've ever seen the movie "Apollo 13."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "APOLLO 13")

ED HARRIS: (As Gene Kranz) Quiet down. Quiet down. Let's stay cool, people. Procedures - I need another computer up in the RTCC.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Royce Renfrew is a NASA flight director at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Mission control there has commanded moon landings and shuttle flights. Today it oversees the operation of the International Space Station. The ISS needs to be manned from the ground 24/7, so Renfrew and his colleagues in Houston have basically been there since Sunday.

RENFREW: The roads around the Johnson Space Center for the most part are impassable. And what we did there is just set up cots for the flight controllers who came off shift so they had some place to stay and didn't have to get out in the weather.

SHAPIRO: He's tweeted pictures of those cots covered and pillows and blankets set up in the front of that famous mission control room. And while the staff on the ground is usually consumed with the status of the astronauts up at the International Space Station, for the past few days, those astronauts have been eager to learn updates from the ground.

RENFREW: A number of the crew members on board the space station have family that live here in the South Houston, Clear Lake area. So they're really looking at the hurricane from the top side that their family is watching come at them from the bottom side.

SHAPIRO: Renfrew tells us they've been sending back images of Harvey taken from space.

RENFREW: It's kind of interesting to know that you might be getting 50-some-odd inches of rain pounded on you. And then you can look at it. It looks beautiful from the top side.

MCEVERS: You can see the pictures of Harvey taken from the International Space Station on Twitter @npratc. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.