Michael Collins – Command Module Pilot of Apollo 11

Apollo 11 pilot Michael Collins in Command Module simulator during the simulated rendezvous and docking maneuver

Apollo 11 Command Module Pilot Michael Collins in during the simulated rendezvous and docking maneuver

On October 31, 1930American astronaut and test pilot Michael Collins was born. Collins’ second spaceflight was as the Command Module Pilot for Apollo 11. While he stayed in orbit around the Moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left in the Lunar Module to make the first manned landing on its surface.

Next to the Apollo program, Michael Collins was part of the Gemini 10 crew, along with John Young. He received his first crew assignment in 1965 and was part of the backup crew for Gemini 7, along with Ed White. As White moved on to the Apollo program after Gemini 7, Collins was assigned to the prime crew of Gemini 10. On their three day’s mission, the crew was obligated to perform two EVAs and 15 different experiments.

After Gemini 10Collins was assigned to the backup crew for the second manned Apollo flight, with Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Thomas Stafford and Collins as Lunar Module Pilot. However, Apollo 2 was canceled and Michael Collins was soon moved to the Command Module Pilot position on the Apollo 8 prime crew. Unfortunately, in 1968, Michael Collins faced some medical problems and was diagnosed with cervical disc herniation which required surgery.

Collins was made capsule communicator of Apollo 8, meaning that he was stationed at Mission Control responsible for communicating directly with the crew during a mission. He covered the launch phase up to translunar injection, the rocket burn that sent Apollo 8 to the Moon as part of the Green Team.

The successful completion of the first manned circum-lunar flight was followed by the announcement of the Apollo 11 crew of Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins. During his day of solo flying around the Moon, Collins never felt lonely and during the 48 minutes of each orbit that he was out of radio contact with Earth, the feeling he reported was not loneliness, but rather “awareness, anticipation, satisfaction, confidence, almost exultation”.

In 1970, Michael Collins retired from NASA and was appointed director of the National Air and Space Museum. He later became undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institution. In 1980, Collins became Vice President of LTV Aerospace in Arlington, Virginia. He resigned in 1985 to start his own consulting firm, Michael Collins Associates. He wrote an autobiography in 1974 entitled Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys. Further published works by Collins include Liftoff: The Story of America’s Adventure in Space, Mission to Mars, and Flying to the Moon and Other Strange Places. For quite a long time, Collins served as trustee of the National Geographic Society and is a fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Michael Collins is also one of 82 astronauts who supports the Asteroid Day campaign which was co-founded by Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart and astrophysicist and Queen guitarist Brian May.

At yovisto you can enjoy a video documentary on the Apollo 11 Moon Landing.

References and Further Reading:

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