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#142 - Michael Collins - Apollo 11



“One small step for man, Jesus, Goddamn! Twenty-two hours hanging in the air. Sometimes you take the fame, sometimes you sit backstage, but if it weren’t for me them boys would still be there.”

John Craigie



OTD July 19th - Happy Birthday to astronomers Brian May and Jayant Narlikar (conformal gravity theory with Hoyle)

This week of course is Apollo 11 week, and of course there is soo much in the news about it.


I wanted to talk about legacy, and of course there are some negative sides to Apollo, the main one for me was that it was so epic that we haven’t been able to top it!!! The rocket equation is still the rocket equation, and humans are still made from human DNA, and despite everything to build a craft to take us to the moon hasn’t become easier, it’s just as hard.

But when you talk to the greatest scientists, astronauts and entrepreneurs of our age, many were inspired to go on and do great things as they watched Apollo 11 as young children, human kinds greatest adventure. This was the legacy, just pure inspiration to push humanity forward.

Yes sometime it feels like humanity has stalled in progress, but it’s an illusion. Things were massive back in the 60’’s on a herculean scale, but human mastery of the very small is where it’s all happened since, no wonder it’s hard to spot. It's no all invisible though, after Apollo we’ve had voyager, viking, Cassini, Gaia, the ISS and curiosity, so what that we’ve temporarily had to leave human exploration behind while we sort out the rocket equation and Human DNA dilemmas.

My prediction is that over the next few years the commercial sector will mature, we will have started the in-space architecture that will allow a colony on the moon, and this will act as a staging post to get to mars, once we’ve ironed out a whole heap of problems. ...it will take time.

And although Apollo was 50 years ago, we have progressed, but in areas we couldn’t have possibly conceived back then.

Astronaut of the week!

Michael Collins


You know when you go drinking with your mates and you have to nominate a driver?

Is Michael Collins the George Harrison of Apollo 11, how and why did the Gaurdian and USA today described him as the forgotten man.

Born on Halloween 1930 Rome, Italy ,same year as Armstrong and Aldrin!!! And other astronauts like, Pogue, Irwin, Adams, Conrad, Mitchell, John Young!!!, White

Collins was born into a very military background, and as a result moved around wherever he was posted, all his family were illustrious military men including his elder brother. His first ever flying experience was in the Grumman G-44 Wigeon is a small, five-person, twin-engine amphibious aircraft, in Puerto Rico, one of the places he ended up at, but he never got to pursue this new passion due to the outbreak of world war 2.

Despite his mum wanting him to do the diplomatic circuit he followed the rest of the men in his family into military service. He went to to the United States Military Academy at West Point where his dad and brother went and got his degree along with fellow cadet Ed White.

To avoid being accused of family connections and favours, his uncle, General J. Lawton Collins, was the Chief of Staff of the United States Army!!!, he decided to become a pilot

Collins effortlessly and fearlessly learnt to fly in the epic-ally cool North American Aviation T-6 Texan, a single-engined advanced trainer aircraft, Then on to the even more epic-ally cool, transonic jet fighter North American F-86 Sabre, the United States' first swept wing fighter and most successful fighter ever made with 10,000 planes built!! But incredibly dangerous!!! eleven people were killed during accidents in the 22 weeks he was training.

He trained further on nuclear weapons delivery and during a Nato exercise had to bail out of his plane due to a fire in the cockpit.

He went on to clock up enough miles,1500, enough to get him on the test pilot class, which included Frank Borman, Jim Irwin and Tom Stafford, While flying the coolest planes ever made, Collins would be inspired by John Glenn to apply for the Astronaut Group 2 - The New Nine!! - He didn’t get it and he was totally gutted and that was ont he back of the worst day of his life giving up smoking, while co-piloting a B52

Collins considers the New Nine as the greatest astronaunt selection, and yes it rediculous, Armstrong, Young, Lovel, Boreman etc.

However after clocking up 3,000 hours, of which 2,700 were in jet aircraft he was selcted for the following 14 - Group 3. He and Anders were the only ones out of 30 born outside of the USA.

After some training Alan Shepard asked everyone to rate the astronaunts and Collins picked David Scott as his number 1.

On Gemini 10 Collins went up with John young and became the 17th USA person in space.

  • For his EVAs Collins used a Nitrogen Gun the Hand-Held Maneuvering Unit (HHMU) for propulsion and practised on a giant airhockey table stood on the puck that raised itself onto a cushion of air, propelling himself around.

  • Space walks - 53 years ago today, - the first person to do 2 EVAs in space!

  • EVA 1 (stand up) - 4th ever space walk, Start: July 19, 49 minutes, stood up in the open hatch riding the Gemini capsule “like a Roman god riding the skies in his chariot” taking photos of the milky way and other in UV film.cut short due to a chemical leak in space suit/

  • EVA 2 july 20, 1966, - 39 minutes, cut short because of lack of fuel

  • Rendezvous with not one but 2 agena spacecraft, including the one abandoned by armstrong gemini terrifying spin incident.

  • Collins space walk over to the agena is the first of it’s type, an sastronaunt leaving one ship to another, however he lost a hassleblad into space, but did retreive a space dust collector, which again they lost before the mission ended as drifted out the space craft?.

  • Using the first Agena they were able to burn up to the highest altitude acheived by humans to date. 763km apogee. This demonstated that radiation was not a problem, but this type of manouvre pulls on the eyeballs.

  • They went back down to the orbit of the 2nd agena rendevous using the agena 1 engine.

  • Collins EVA’d over to the Agena and tried to grab onto the docking cone but found this impossible as it was smooth and had no grip. He used the HHMU to move himself towards the Gemini and then back to the Agena

  • They spashed down in the sea pretty accuratley and the space craft can be seen at the Cosmosphere in Kansas,

  • The Agena craft burnt up on re-entry in december 1966, the second one a year earlier in september.

The Apollo program.

Collins moved onto the Apollo program. It was all going well with Collins slated to be the Comand module pilot (second in command) of Apollo 8. Flying helicopters in preperation for the Lunar Module landing. But the Apollo 1 fire changed everything. Collins was in the astronaut office when the call came in and was dispatched with theh orrifc duty of informing the Chaffee household and Martha Chaffee that her husband had died.

While on a nasa trip to the Paris Air Show 67 he spent time with his russian counterparts the legendary Pavel Belyayev and Konstantin Feoktistov who braggged that they were also practising in helicopters and would be shortly flying around the moon Apollo 8 style. In an amzing gesture Nasa made Collins and his wife Pat go to Metz, and had a arranged a wedding ceremony 10 years on from original ceremony for them to renew there vows.

Collin found out that he needed surgery when he was having difficulty walking, a disc herniation needed to be sorted by fusing 2 vertebrae togehter, this meant he lost his apollo 8 place to Jim Lovell, (via Apollo 9) . But becuase he’s trained for apollo 8 he was Capcom for that Brilliant mission. He was the person that said “you are go for TLI” telling 3 humans that they are go to become the first humans evert to leave Earths gravity. He regrets not saying something more profoiund evoking Chrostopher columbus or primordal swaps etc.

His back problems had put him on course for Apollo 11, and although at the point of his appointment wasn’t a certain for a moon landing, it would go on to be the most iconic flight of any kind in history.


Collins was the CMP and was responsiible for the rendezvous manouvres with the LM, and trained mostlyy on his own away from Armstrong and Aldrin, spending over 600 hours in the simulator literally writing the book on all the different scenarios for rendezvous, LM didn’t land, LM launched too late or too early etc. In his mind he must have had the didn’t lauunch scenario, “I’d go home,” leaving the others behind. “They knew that, and I knew that, but it’s not something we ever talked about. What’s the point?”. The book was 117 pages long. He rated Armstrong an Aldrin chance of survival as 50/50.

Collins was the main designer of the Apollo 11 patch, he found the picture of the Eagle, a painting by Walter A Weber, and traced it over a picture of the moon and earth in the background. ...Iconic.

Not walking on the Moon was his own decision, Collins decided that if Apollo 11 was successful he wouldn’t go to space again, his family were more important to him. He just wanted to get the job done for kennedy. Gene Cernan was to benefit. In fact Collins once reminisced “I could have been the last person to walk on the moon”

  • Propelled by a giant Saturn V rocket, which was chucking 4 asian elephants mass of fuel a second out the back, Apollo 11 lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969, at 13:32 UTC - 50 years ago this week ...in case you hadn’t noticed.

  • Collins described the feeling of launch as the saturn V feeling like a “nervous lady driving a wide car down a narrow alley”

  • 12 minutes later they were in orbit, after 1 and half orbits the 3rd stage pushed them towards the moon,

  • 30 mins after that Collins perforrmed Transposition, docking, and extraction separating the Apollo command and service module (CSM) spacecraft from the adapter which fastened it to its launch vehicle upper stage, turning it around, and docking its nose to the lunar module (LM) then pulling the combined spacecraft away from the upper stage, which took about an hour, the spent rocket stgae would fly past and would enter a Heliocentric orbit.

  • 3 days later after travelling in their tin can. They entered Lunar orbit

  • Aldrin and Armstrong in the Eagle separated from Columbia, Collins, inspected Eagle as it pirouetted before him to ensure the craft was not damaged and that the landing gear was correctly deployed before heading for the surface

  • Collins claims he never felt lonely, but was very worried about Armstrong and Aldrin's safety. He was also concerned in the event of their deaths on the Moon, he would be forced to return to Earth alone and, as the mission's sole survivor, be regarded as "a marked man for life"

  • "I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it. If a count were taken, the score would be three billion plus two over on the other side of the moon, and one plus God knows what on this side."

  • Collins orbited the Moon 30 times, each time having the "awareness, anticipation, satisfaction, confidence, almost exultation” of 48 miinutes of radio silence, considering his part ot be just as important as the other 2.

  • He even missed Armstrong's famous first words on the surface, as he was on the other side of the Moon, cut from radio communication with the rest of humanity. In doing this

  • The first person to orbit the Far Side of the Moon alone

  • "Spacecraft 107 — alias Apollo 11 — alias Columbia. The best ship to come down the line. God Bless Her. Michael Collins, CMP"

  • July 21, Eagle lifted off from the Moon to rejoin Collins aboard Columbia in lunar orbit. After rendezvous with Columbia, the ascent stage was jettisoned into lunar orbit, and Columbia made its way back to Earth

  • 8 days 3 hours and 18 minutes 35 seconds after takeoff they splashed into the pacific

  • Overall Collins did the most flying out of the 3 super super legendary flyers

  • They had to where biological isolation suits

  • Kept in Quaratine for 21 days including the space journey home.

  • On August 13, the three astronauts rode in parades in their honor in New York and Chicago, with about six million attendees

  • In September, the astronauts embarked on a 38-day world tour that brought them to 22 foreign countries and included visits with prominent world leaders

  • Collins keen to point out that thousand of people were equally rewarding of the praise.

  • Collins bizarrely found himself the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. on the urgings of President Richard Nixon

  • Bad timing everything was going to shit in the US, vietnam, cambodia, kent state shooting etc

  • Collins was very precient and warned of insularity "Farmers speak to farmers, students to students, business leaders to other business leaders, but this intramural talk serves mainly to mirror one's beliefs, to reinforce existing prejudices, to lock out opposing views" Wonder what he thinks of facebook!!!!

  • He shortly became the Director of the National Air and Space Museum in washington, once he realised the stae job wasn’t for him. He stayed till 1978, and in the meantime got his Harvard Business School's Advanced Management Program in 1974, and wrote his classic Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys. The best astronaunt book. In the same year.

  • Collins has also written Liftoff: The Story of America's Adventure in Space (1988), a history of the American space program, Mission to Mars (1990), a non-fiction book on human spaceflight to Mars, and Flying to the Moon and Other Strange Places (1976), revised and re-released as Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut's Story (1994), a children's book on his experiences

  • in 1980 became Vice President of LTV Aerospace in Arlington, Virginia. He resigned in 1985 to start his own consulting firm, Michael Collins Associates

  • He lived with his wife, Pat, in Marco Island, Florida and Avon, North Carolina until her death in April 2014, they have 3 children.actress Kate Collins, in 1959 Ann, in 1961 and a son, Michael, in 1963.

  • he has painted watercolors, mostly of the Florida Everglades or aircraft that he flew; they are rarely space-related. He did not initially sign his paintings to avoid them increasing in price just because they had his autograph on them

  • Collins appears in Shadowof the Moon a film by previous guests Director Chris riley and editor by David Fairhead

  • Jethro Tull have a song called "For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me" The song compares the feelings of misfitting from vocalist Ian Anderson (and friend Jeffrey Hammond) with the astronaut's own, as he is left behind by the ones who had the privilege of walking on the surface of the Moon

  • In 2013, indie pop group The Boy Least Likely To released the song "Michael Collins" on the album The Great Perhaps. The song uses Collins' feeling that he was blessed to have the type of solitude of being truly separated from all other human contact in contrast with modern society's lack of perspective

  • American folk artist John Craigie recorded a song titled "Michael Collins" for his 2017 album No Rain, No Rose. The song embraces his role as an integral part of the Apollo 11 mission with the chorus, "Sometimes you take the fame, sometimes you sit back stage, but if it weren't for me them boys would still be there."

  • Collins spends his days "searching for a really good bottle of cabernet under ten dollars."

  • He does sprint Triathlon which is 1/2 mile swim, 20 mile bike ride, and a 4 mile run every year.

  • “I think NASA should be renamed NAMA, Mars their one overriding goal and destination.”

  • In Summary Collins is a brave, bangout pilot, professional beyond belive, modest and a sensitive family guy. ...what a freakin legend.


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