Collins in space

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are the famous astronauts from the first lunar landing. The third member of that mission was Michael Collins, who was the Command Module Pilot—the man who orbited the moon while Armstrong and Aldrin landed on it. Think about that for a moment: Collins was all alone in the command module Columbia behind the moon, almost 400,000 miles from earth. During this time he could neither send nor receive signals to or from NASA or anybody else. For 48 minutes at a time, many times, Collins was as utterly alone as it is possible for a human to be. Wikipedia says:

During his day of solo flying around the Moon, Collins never felt lonely. Although it has been said that “not since Adam has any human known such solitude”, Collins felt very much a part of the mission. In his autobiography he wrote that “this venture has been structured for three men, and I consider my third to be as necessary as either of the other two”. 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”.

This is quite a testament to his professional training. My first thought would be how terrifying that must feel, to be in outer space, literally without the possibility of contact with anybody at all. It’s inspiring to think of Collins out there, feeling confident, almost exultant.


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