Michael Collins reflects on Apollo 11 mission in 2019
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Collins, one of three crew members of the first manned mission to the Moon in 1969, has died aged 90. His family said it came after “a valiant battle with cancer”. They added: “He spent his final days peacefully, with his family by his side.”
While Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon, Collins stayed in lunar orbit, piloting the command module as it circled above.
Because of this, he is often called the “forgotten astronaut”.
When Armstrong first stepped on the natural satellite, Collins was 60 miles above, telling the team back in Houston he was listening to communications with his comrades, and it was “fantastic”.
Talking about how the Earth looked from space, he later noted: “The thing I remember most is the view of planet Earth from a great distance.
“Tiny. Very shiny. Blue and white. Bright. Beautiful. Serene and fragile.”
As a boy, Collins dreamed of going to space.
He once told NPR that NASA had, in fact, sent him on the wrong mission.
He said: “I used to joke that NASA sent me to the wrong place, to the moon.
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“Because I think Mars is a more interesting place.
“It’s a place I always read about as a child.”
Mars remained an obsession for Collins in later life.
He wrote several books that featured the Red Planet.
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One, ‘Carrying the Fire’, is considered to be the best astronaut biography of all time.
Apollo 11 was his final trip to space and he never dwelled on missing a chance to step on the moon.
He told NPR: “As an astronaut, I always thought I had the best job in the world and I still think that.
“But for me when it was over it was over.”
During the Apollo 11 mission, he could only talk to control half the time.
When he orbited the back side of the moon, he was completely cut off.
This part of the mission led some to describe him as momentarily being the loneliest man in humanity.
Yet, he told the publication that the observation was far from the truth, and said: “The fact that I was … out of communications, rather than that being a fear, that was a joy because I got Mission Control to shut up for a little while.
“Every once in a while.”
Collins’ death means Aldrin, 91, is the only surviving member of the mission.
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