The legendary astronaut played an imperative role in getting the first two men – Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin – to step foot on the Moon on July 21, 1969. Armstrong would jump off the lunar lander Eagle to deliver his “one small step” speech to the millions watching on Earth, before the pair buried the US flag in the surface, signifying the end of the Space Race. Meanwhile, Collins orbited alone in the command module for 21 hours, in which he would be dubbed “the loneliest man in the universe,” but in an interview with NASA, the former test pilot said he felt “far from feeling lonely or abandoned.”
Instead, the 89-year-old explained how he got a front-row seat to not only the Moon landing, but a view of Earth in the distance unseen by man before, and this, he admitted, left a lasting effect on him.
Speaking to NASA in 2009, he said: “I really believe that if the political leaders of the world could see their planet from a distance of 100,000 miles their outlook could be fundamentally changed.
“That all-important border would be invisible, that noisy argument silenced.
“The tiny globe would continue to turn, serenely ignoring its subdivisions, presenting a unified facade that would cry out for unified understanding, for homogeneous treatment.
Michael Collins made a candid confession with NASA
The Apollo 11 crew in 1969
“The Earth must become as it appears, blue and white, not capitalist or communist, blue and white, not rich or poor, blue and white, not envious or envied.”
“Small, shiny, serene, blue and white, fragile.”
Asked if the Earth would still look the same 40 years later, Mr Collins said it probably would from far enough away.
He added: “Yes, from the Moon, but appearances can be deceiving.
“It’s certainly not serene, but definitely fragile, and growing more so.
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Collins said the Earth looked fragile
“When we flew to the Moon, our population was three billion, today it has more than doubled and is headed for eight billion, the experts say.
“I do not think this growth is sustainable or healthy.
“The loss of habitat, the trashing of oceans, the accumulation of waste products – this is no way to treat a planet.”
Despite his clear gratitude for being a part of Apollo 11, Collins said he does not want to be remembered as a hero or celebrity, rather just an astronaut doing his job.
He added: “Some things about current society irritate me, such as the adulation of celebrities and the inflation of heroism.
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Apollo 11 happened more than 50 years ago
The astronauts safely back on Earth
“Heroes abound, and should be revered as such, but don’t count astronauts among them.
“We work very hard, we did our jobs to near perfection, but that was what we had hired on to do.
“In no way did we meet the criterion of the Congressional Medal of Honour: ‘above and beyond the call of duty.’
“Celebrities? What nonsense, what an empty concept for a person to be, as my friend the great historian Daniel Boorstin put it, ‘known for his well-known-ness.’”
Collins went on to candidly explain how he was just in the right place at the right time.
He continued: “I’m just lucky. Usually, you find yourself either too young or too old to do what you really want, but consider this, Neil Armstrong was born in 1930, Buzz Aldrin 1930, and Mike Collins 1930.
“We came along at exactly the right time.
“We survived hazardous careers and we were successful in them.
“But in my own case at least, it was 10 percent shrewd planning and 90 percent blind luck. Put lucky on my tombstone.”