Saturday, May 1, 2021

Quips and Quotations (Flying Solo Edition)

 

1930-2021

I know that I would be a liar or a fool if I said that I have the best of the three Apollo 11 seats, but I can say with truth and equanimity that I am perfectly satisfied with the one I have...This venture has been structured for three men, and I consider my third to be as necessary as either of the other two.

-- Michael Collins, who stayed behind on the command module Columbia as fellow astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to the surface of the moon in the lunar lander Eagle. Orbiting the moon all by himself 14 times, Collins was cut off from all communications with Earth for about 45 minutes every time the Columbia entered the natural satellite's renowned dark side. Even when Collins was back in contact with Earth, he was not among the estimated 600 million television viewers who got to see Armstrong and Aldrin traipse about the Sea of Tranquility. Still, he was there to pick the two men up when the Eagle bid adieu to the moon, all three returning safely to Earth. Deke Slayton, at the time the director of Flight Crew Operations, offered to put Collins back into crew rotation afterwards, which probably would have allowed him to walk on the moon himself on the final lunar mission in 1972. But having already been in space twice--he also had been a member of Gemini 10, where he had performed a spacewalk--Collins didn't want yet another long absence from his family that training for such a mission demanded, and so resigned from NASA. In his post-astronaut life, Collins wrote a best-selling autobiography, worked as an assistant secretary for the State Department, was the first director of the National Air and Space Museum, was made a vice-president of an aerospace company, and opened his own consulting firm. Aside from all that, he basically kept out of the spotlight, as he considered  celebrityhood rather silly. Nevertheless, he had his own Twitter account, and, a little more than a week ago, left this tweet:







 


 


 
 
 

 


  


15 comments:

  1. Hi, Kirk!

    Thanks for reporting the news that former astronaut Michael Collins has died at the age of 90 down here near where I live in Naples, FL.

    I well remember watching the prime time lunar landing on July 20, 1969. I was at my girlfriend's house that night and she and I were glued to the TV set. Her dad (very similar to the one on The Goldbergs) fell asleep in his easy chair and missed the whole thing. That night I gave little thought to Michael Collins piloting the Command Module Columbia and orbiting the moon alone while his fellow astronauts landed and walked on the lunar surface. I admire the quotes that came from Collins regarding his less visible role on the historic Apollo 11 moon mission. In addition to the quote you posted, I found this one in which he discussed how it felt to be cut off from contact with Earth for 48 minutes every time his orbiting command module traveled around the dark side of the moon. Wiki sez: << the feeling he reported was not fear or loneliness, but rather "awareness, anticipation, satisfaction, confidence, almost exultation." >> That's a solid, well trained professional for you.

    Thanks for remembering a man who clearly had the right stuff to be part of the U.S. space program -- Michael Collins. Enjoy the rest of your weekend, good buddy Kirk!

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    1. Shady, I was seven years old at the time, didn't have the firmest grasp on the more intricate details of the mission, and for years afterwards assumed all three astronauts had walked on the moon (apparently, I failed to take count while watching it on TV, but, if you'll recall, the picture WAS pretty fuzzy.) I think I was in the sixth grade or something when I found out only two had.

      I actually did come across the quote you quoted, but chose the other one because I felt the "liar and a fool" beginning lent a kind of a lighthearted humility to the whole thing. Collins seems to have adjusted well to his post-Apollo 11 life, unlike Buzz Aldrin (now the only one of the three still alive) who had all sorts of problems.

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  2. His place in history is secure. RIP

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    1. Debra, I sometimes wonder if the moon landing itself has a secure place in history. By that I don't mean it didn't happen--it most certainly did--but nothing permanent has yet to come of it. It seems to have been a technological dead-end, concocted basically to show up the Russians, who had several firsts of their own in space. I'm glad there was a moon landing, but until further notice, I think it's a bit closer to a small step than a giant leap.

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  3. It seems like it was just yesterday that the moon landing happened.

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    1. 52 years ago this July, Mike. Subtract that number from 1969, the year of the moon landing. Orville Wright is still in his 40s, Charles Lindbergh is still in high school, and the Red Baron is keeping himself busy shooting down allied aircraft over Europe.

      The further it recedes into the past, the moon landing increasingly comes across as this odd science-fiction moment in history. People old enough to remember watching it on TV are now at the very least in their late 50s!

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    1. All these years later, Mitchell, it still seems like an amazing feat.

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  6. I don't really know anything about him. I don't think I liked the moon walkers as people. Perhaps I would like Collins.

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    1. From everything I've read, Andrew, Collins was a nice guy.

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  7. Hello Kirk, It seems that behind every celebrated achiever, there are whole ranks of support people who are willing to stay out of the limelight, however necessary their contributions were to the success.
    --Jim

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    1. Just now looked it up, Jim. An estimated 400,000 engineers, scientists, and technicians were involved in the moon program.

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  8. Rest In Peace. What a monumental moment for all those who shared and witnessed this event.

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    1. JM, I'm just old enough to be one of those witnesses. Had I been born two or three years later, probably not.

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In order to keep the hucksters, humbugs, scoundrels, psychos, morons, and last but not least, artificial intelligentsia at bay, I have decided to turn on comment moderation. On the plus side, I've gotten rid of the word verification.