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Saturday, May 1, 2021

Michael Collins who famously orbited moon - but did not land is no more !

In this beautiful world, now marooned by Covid 19 and the media highlighting the deaths, one can be forgiven if they had not read about this powerful obituary!


It is all about the man, the son of  James Collins, a soldier, and his wife, Virginia (nee Stewart),  born in Rome, where his father was serving, and was later relieved that this saved him from any astronautical hometown parade. Collins Sr retired as a two-star general, one of Michael’s uncles was a sometime army chief of staff, and another was a brigadier. His brother became a colonel, and a cousin a major.

It is almost 52 years of that significant event and the whole World is talking about ~ the primary objective of the mission was to  complete a national goal set by President John F. Kennedy on May 25, 1961: perform a crewed lunar landing and return to Earth. Additional flight objectives included scientific exploration by the lunar module, or LM, crew; deployment of a television camera to transmit signals to Earth; and deployment of a solar wind composition experiment, seismic experiment package and a Laser Ranging Retroreflector. During the exploration, the two astronauts were to gather samples of lunar-surface materials for return to Earth. They also were to extensively photograph the lunar terrain, the deployed scientific equipment, the LM spacecraft, and each other, both with still and motion picture cameras. – ‘Apollo 11’.

Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in classical Greek and Roman religion and Greek and Roman mythology. The national divinity of the Greeks, Apollo has been variously recognized as a god of archery, music and dance, truth and prophecy, healing and diseases, the sun and light, poetry, and more. Apollo is the son of Zeus and Leto, and has a twin sister, the chaste huntress Artemis. Seen as the most beautiful god and the ideal of the kouros (a beardless, athletic youth), Apollo is considered to be the most Greek of all gods.

Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969, carrying Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin into an initial Earth-orbit of 114 by 116 miles. An estimated 650 million people watched Armstrong's televised image and heard his voice describe the event as he took " small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind" on July 20, 1969. 

On 20 July 1969, Michael Collins, who has died on 28.4.2021   aged 90, became the most solitary human in the universe – even if he derided that categorisation as “phony philosophy”. He orbited the moon alone, inside Apollo 11’s command module Columbia, and out of touch with ground control for 48 minutes on each orbit. Meanwhile, and more famously, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were becoming the first men to set foot on that rock, some 240,000 miles away from Earth.

As the command module pilot, on $17,000 a year, Collins was, he later wrote half-jokingly, “the navigator, the guidance and control expert, the base-camp operator, the owner of the leaky plumbing – all the things I was least interested in doing”. He was also, thought Aldrin, probably Nasa’s best-trained command module pilot. A back operation had precluded him from Apollo 8, which orbited the moon at Christmas 1968. In January 1969 Collins was assigned to Apollo 11. The moon landing attempt was confirmed only after the successful Earth orbit testing of Apollo 9, and the 31 moon orbits of Apollo 10 that May. The Apollo 11 landing was more than a step in history, the New York Times would editorialise, it was a step in evolution. “We were our nation’s envoys ...” Collins wrote, “and it would be a national disgrace if we screwed up.”

First Armstrong emerged from the Eagle and deployed the TV camera for the transmission of the event to Earth. At about 109 hours, 42 minutes after launch, Armstrong stepped onto the moon. About 20 minutes later, Aldrin followed him. The camera was then positioned on a tripod about 30 feet from the LM. Half an hour later, President Nixon spoke by telephone link with the astronauts.  For the Quizz enthusiasts, the details are :

Crew  :  Neil Armstrong, Commander; Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., Lunar Module Pilot & Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot

Backup Crew : James A. Lovell, Commander; Fred W. Haise Jr., Lunar Module Pilot & William A. Anders, Command Module Pilot

USA is a Nation where achievements as also conspiracy theories galore.  ‘We  Never Went to the Moon: America's Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle!’ – was one such mocking the events of  July 20, 1969, the day when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on Earth's moon for the first time in human history. Four days later, they — along with Apollo 11 command module pilot Michael Collins — were locked up on an American battleship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The triumphant astronauts were in quarantine. Per a NASA safety protocol written half a decade earlier, the three lunar visitors were escorted directly from their splashdown site in the central Pacific to a modified trailer aboard the USS Hornet, where a 21-day isolation period began. That was to  ensure that no potentially hazardous lunar microbes hitchhiked back to Earth with them.

Michael Collins the hero is no more -  (October 31, 1930 – April 28, 2021) was an American astronaut who flew the Apollo 11 command module Columbia around the Moon in 1969. Collins graduated from the United States Military Academy with the Class of 1952. He joined the United States Air Force, and flew F-86 Sabre fighters at Chambley-Bussières Air Base, France. He was accepted into the U.S. Air Force Experimental Flight Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in 1960, also graduating from the Aerospace Research Pilot School (Class III). Selected as part of NASA's third group of 14 astronauts in 1963, Collins flew in space twice. His first spaceflight was on Gemini 10 in 1966, in which he and Command Pilot John Young performed orbital rendezvous with two spacecraft and undertook two extravehicular activities (EVAs, also known as spacewalks). On the 1969 Apollo 11 mission he became one of 24 people to fly to the Moon, which he orbited thirty times. He was the fourth person (and third American) to perform a spacewalk, the first person to have performed more than one spacewalk, and, after Young, who flew the command module on Apollo 10, the second person to orbit the Moon alone.

After retiring from NASA in 1970, Collins took a job in the Department of State as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. An year later, he became the director of the National Air and Space Museum, and held this position until 1978, when he stepped down to become undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institution. In 1980, he took a job as vice president of LTV Aerospace. He resigned in 1985 to start his own consulting firm. Along with his Apollo 11 crewmates, Collins was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2011.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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