“There’s a moon in the sky. It’s called the moon” – The B52s
Back in primary school, I was part of a 60s miscellany show we put on to celebrate the school’s 30th birthday. According to the show, the three most important events to have occurred in that decade were The Beatles, the 1966 World Cup and, most famously, the opening of Hamford County Primary School.
While these are all obviously important world renowned events, the one placed at number 4 should arguably have been at the top of that list; the moon landing, and given I was playing world famous astronaut Neil Armstrong in the show, I bloody well thought so too. I had practiced my line to perfection and even got the step of the ladder spot on. I thought I’d have the coolest role (a freaking astronaut, what’s cooler than that?!), but I was wrong; I got exactly 73 seconds on stage, while the world cup winners got upwards of 10 minutes. The show was a hit, and everyone remembered it (for the next week anyway) for the 1966 world cup scene. My part was pivotal, immaculately portrayed and couldn’t have been done without me, but I was overlooked.
However, while I had at least portrayed Neil Armstrong and another person was Buzz Aldrin, there was no-one else on stage. Apollo 11 was a three man crew, so where and who was that third man and why can’t anyone remember him? Well, to answer your questions he was in the Command Service Module orbiting the moon at the time, his name is Michael Collins and it’s probably because his name isn’t striking enough. Sorry Michael.
Collins sits among an exclusive group of 24 people to have flown to the moon, but while the other missions may have been important to NASA and the astronauts, his mission was the first. His role was obviously very different from Armstrong and Aldrin. While they were galavanting off studying and playing on the moon (I imagine a very very long, boring game of tag), Collins spent the day alone, orbiting, experiencing solitude to the extreme, especially when going through48-minute periods of no radio contact at all.
He was alone in a glorified tin can where no-one could have a chance of hearing him scream, and this was a time before computerised solitaire and Katamari Damacy. He made a connection with the module and inscribed his mark in history and also had a huge role in designing the mission patch of an eagle with an olive branch, along with the famous “The eagle has landed” phrase made upon landing. In essence he was the crew’s very own Peggy Patch.
He doesn’t begrudge the other two their limelight moment, instead he worried about their safety on the moon, in case the soup dragon or any rogue clangers encountered them and chased them with spears while he was away. He also firmly believed his role was just as pivotal and vital, given that it was a three man mission, and he was the third man.
After the mission, he retired from flying, landing governmental and NASA roles. I also retired from space flight after my mission, but to a more comfortable surrounding of pens, desks, football and shouting at England failing to win. Again. So me and Michael Collins are pretty much the same really, honest…
Bonus extra link! A guy called William is doing an awesome challenge. Follow it here.