Very sad news today. Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot of Apollo 11, has embarked on his last voyage of exploration.
Collins, who rose to the rank of Major General in the United States Air Force, was described by all who knew him as extraordinarily competent, yet a humble man with a sense of humor. When Apollo 18 and 19 were canceled, he knew he wouldn't get to walk on the Moon himself, but he was always proud of the role he'd played in putting his comrades and his country on the moon.
He was the first head of the National Air and Space Museum, a magnificent achievement that preserves aerospace history including many artifacts of the Apollo program.
His book Carrying the Fire is still the standard for astronaut autobiographies. In it readers will not only meet the man and understand his beliefs and motivations, but where he thinks the space program fits into the larger universe of human endeavor. As a bonus, Collins explains the technology involved in language all can understand. He conveys superbly what it was like to voyage in the cramped quarters of the Gemini and Apollo capsules through the harshest environment in the universe.
I never met Collins. I wanted to tell him, not only that I admired him, but I'd watched his launch to the moon. I was a 9-year-old watching from a plane my dad had rented from his employer, Piper Aircraft, in Vero Beach just down the coast from the Cape. (I wanted to meet them all, but I've only met Buzz Aldrin (who is well worth meeting!)
Michael Collins was 90 years old. From one Air Force veteran to another: a last salute. Ad Astra.