As NASA prepares for a return to the moon and looks ahead to a manned flight to Mars, we learned today that 90-year-old Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins died has died after a long battle with cancer.
This leaves Buzz Aldrin, 91, as the only remaining astronaut remaining from the July 1969 flight to the moon. Collins, who piloted the command module in orbit around the moon while Armstrong and Aldrin went to the surface, designed the mission patch that signified the United States went to the moon in peace.
According to Wikipedia, “After retiring from NASA in 1970, Collins took a job in the Department of State as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. A 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.”
To those of us who watched Apollo 11 TV coverage on TV from beginning to end, those moments of history don’t seem so far away. So it seems also that Michael Collins is gone too soon, flying now amongst the far stars where no one except his fellow astronauts has gone before.
Yes, I watched the splashdown of the SpaceX mission capsule Endevour returning from the International Space Station. What a historic mission, one that seemed to be flawless.
It’s the first ocean splashdown since the Apollo era of the 1970s, the first U.S. crewed ship to visit the space station since the shuttle program ended, and the first private enterprise mission.
I watched most of the early space flight liftoffs and splashdowns on TV–Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and all the shuttle liftoffs and landings.
As StarTrek put it, space is the final frontier (as far as we know). Watching the SpaceX flight, I felt a lot of nostalgia for the earlier flights and my Cape Kennedy visits to the NASA facility. Now we won’t have to pay Moscow $90 million per seat when our astronauts ride to the space station on a Soyuz. I also felt that someday soon, space may become more accessible to humans (as opposed to all the satellites clogging up the skies overhead).
My friends never understood why I took risks to climb mountains, especially Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. I don’t understand why anyone would want to sit in a space capsule being launched by the Saturn V. But I’m glad they do because exploration is a large part of who we are and a fair amount of bravery is required.
Malcolm R. Campbell’s new novel “Fate’s Arrows” should be available by the end of the year. The novel will become part 4 of the “Florida Folk Magic Series” that began in 2015 with “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”