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Michael Collins

One of the most important cogs in the Apollo 11 team which made the first Moon landing (way back in 1969, 52 years ago!) has died.

While Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin flew down to the Moon in the Lunar Module, Eagle, Michael Collins stayed in Moon orbit in the Command Module, Columbia, keeping the whole mission together, orbiting the Moon alone – the supposedly loneliest human in the universe – thirty times before the Lunar Module returned Armstrong and Aldrin to Columbia.

Having started his career as a fighter pilot and going on to be a test pilot Collins was a veteran of Gemini 10 where he became the fourth human to space walk and the first to do it twice but retired from NASA in 1970 very soon after his most historic mission.

Michael Collins: 31/10/1930 – April 28/4/2021. So it goes.

A Guiding Light

I woke up this morning to the news that Neil Armstrong has died.

As the first human to set foot on the Moon his place in history is assured.

I hadn’t consciously thought about the fact he must be getting old (he was 82) but then again 1969 is several lifetimes ago now and he was 39 when he made his “giant leap” – the culmination of what must be the greatest huamn adventure so far.

I have no patience for those who aver that the Moon landings were faked. What crabbed meanness of spirit does that belief imply about its adherents? The evidence that they did happen is overwhelming – not least the fact that scientists are still receiving data from instruments the astronauts left behind there. And, in any case, it is simply impossible to believe that in a country as open as the US a conspiracy to counterfeit a series of Moon landings could ever have been kept secret – never mind for all involved to have remained silent about it for so long. (By now – long since -someone would have cracked, someone talked.) To disbelieve it belittles the work, the huge effort put into it and the danger of doing so. No wonder Buzz Aldrin punched some idiot who asked him to swear he hadn’t walked on the Moon.

Never forget; these projects were achieved in tiny craft, with skin so thin as to be almost not there (but nevertheless beautiful) and with a computing power smaller that that of a twenty-first century pocket calculator, all with the killing power of a vacuum only millimetres away and up to 240,000 miles distant from any prospect of safety.

The achievement was not, though, in getting there. We could send a person to the Moon with little preparation, even now. The problem, the achievement, is getting them back.

The Apollo missions succeeded in that every time, even in the one mission to the Moon that was in all other respects a failure, Apollo 13, the safe return of whose crew was NASA’s finest hour.

In addition to holding the honour of being the first human to walk on the surface of another celestial body Neil Armstrong seems to have been a modest man; he certainly did not try to purvey his celebrity into attempting to gain political office.

Humans have not been to the Moon again for 40 years! That fact alone says something about the select few of whom Armstrong was the first.

Neil Alden Armstrong 5/8/1930-25/8/2012. So it goes.

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