NASA’s Apollo 11 landed in the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility 50 years ago this month on July 20, 1969. The monumental mission saw astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin fly to the Moon and back. And despite the three men accomplishing the greatest feat in the history of human exploration, none of them have worked together before Apollo 11. Now, as the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing approaches, Collins has opened up about the relationship between Apollo 11’s astronauts.
The spaceflight veteran said: “Apollo 11 was a little different than some of the other flights.
“We didn’t cruise around in colour-coordinated Corvettes or anything like that.
“We were all business. We were all hard work and we felt the weight of the world upon us.”
NASA’s Apollo 11 crew came together six months before the Moon landing itself.
At that point, none of the astronauts have worked together and Collins described the team as “amicable strangers” with a shared task.
Before Apollo 11, Collins flew on Gemini 10 and served in the US Air Force (USAF). He earned his astronaut rank in 1962 and has retired as a major general of the USAF.
Armstrong followed a similar trajectory in his spaceflight career, joining NASA’s astronaut corps in 1962.
Before NASA, Armstrong was a seasoned naval aviator in the Korean War and later was the first civilian to command a space mission with Gemini 8.
Aldrin was graduate of the US Military Academy in 1951 and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who became an astronaut in 1963.
The astronaut also has the distinction of being the first person with a doctorate to fly in space.
When Armstrong and Aldrin descended to the lunar surface, Collins stayed behind inside of the Columbia Command Module in lunar orbit.
The astronaut circled the Moon in complete solitude for an entire day before his colleagues returned but his role in the mission was vital to the success of Apollo 11.
Without Collins patiently waiting in lunar orbit, Armstrong and Aldrin would have been left stranded on the Moon.
He said: “I felt like I was Neil and Buzz’s meal ticket home. I was in no shape or form lonely.”
The astronaut left NASA just six months after the lunar landing, retiring from spaceflight entirely.
Collins has distinguished himself by being the 17th American in space and the fourth ever person to have performed a spacewalk.