Apollo 11 People


Orbiting alone
The third essential astronaut on a remarkable mission

While two astronauts were taking the first momentous steps on the lunar surface, a third orbited the Moon in the command and service modules

As command module pilot, Michael Collins played a vital role in the Apollo 11 mission that landed the first astronauts on the Moon in July 1969

“This venture has been structured for three men, and I consider my third to be as necessary as either of the other two,” Collins said

After Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin completed their time on the lunar surface, Collins was responsible for performing the necessary docking maneuvers with the lunar module to start the journey home

He was an extremely experienced pilot and astronaut, having previously spent 2 days, 22 hours, and 46 minutes in space and completed two spacewalks (EVAs) during the Gemini X mission in 1966

He was also the first person ever to venture to the far side of the Moon completely alone, and out of radio contact for half of each orbit

“Not since Adam has any human known such solitude as Mike Collins is experiencing during this 47 minutes of each lunar revolution”

Mission Control

The second son of the U.S. military attaché to Italy, Collins was born in Rome on October 31, 1930

Despite his strong family history in the U.S. Army, he chose to join the U.S. Air Force to avoid accusations of nepotism. He became a celebrated test pilot, achieving the rank of major general.

Inspired by John Glenn and his flight in Friendship 7 in February 1962, Collins decided to apply to NASA

Collins and Aldrin were not selected the first time they applied to become astronauts but were accepted in the third astronaut group in October 1963

After leaving NASA in 1970, Collins continued his distinguished career, including a term as the assistant secretary of state for public affairs

His passion for space never ceased, and in 1971, he became the director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, before becoming undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institution in 1978

A creative man, Collins designed the Apollo 11 emblem and wrote three books about the mission