Who could ever forget the iconic words said by Neil Armstrong as he set foot on the surface of the moon for the very first time, with Buzz following closely behind him?
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Unlike Buzz Aldrin and Neil, the third astronaut on NASA’s famous Apollo 11 mission never walked on the moon’s surface.
The often forgotten astronaut’s name is Michael Collins.
He doesn’t get nearly as much attention as the others, despite the fact that he played perhaps the most essential role of all in the accomplishment of the mission in 1969. Collins is the one who successfully flew the lunar command module to the moon and back.
Collins, who previously trained as a fighter pilot, had always wanted to view the stars in space and was ecstatic to be a part of the expedition to the moon.
Michael Collins died on April 28, 2021 following a battle with a cancer. He was 90 years old.
Before his death, the ‘forgotten’ Apollo 11 astronaut had spoken up about the bizarre way in which they were treated upon returning to Earth following the historic journey.
He told 60 Minutes Australia:
“Did I have the best seat on Apollo 11? No. Was I happy with the seat I did have? Yes – I really was, and to be any small part of that suited me very, very well.
“And, besides, I was their ticket home—they couldn’t get home without me.”
While his crewmates Neil and Buzz were on the surface collecting rocks, Michael was alone for 21 hours in the command module Columbia, circling the moon every two hours.
He would lose all communication whenever he passed over the dark side of the moon, which is still the most distant part of space that humans have yet visited.
“The food was terrible, but I enjoyed my time behind the moon, it’s a more rugged place and not a very comfortable place,” Collins added.
When the astronauts returned home, he explained how they were unable to enjoy their legendary status because they were “put into quarantine” with a “gigantic colony of white mice” for two weeks.
“We were put into quarantine for two weeks. Some of our scientists were worried about the pathogens that we might have brought back from the moon, they possibly would be dangerous to humankind.”
“So, their solution to that was to put us inside a hermetically sealed container with a gigantic colony of white mice—[if] the white mice lived we were okay, [if the] white mice died we were in deep trouble. Of course, I was checking on them … there were too many of them to give names to but they became my friends,” he added.
Fortunately, all of the mice managed to survive.
As NASA prepared to launch its Artemis I mission on August 29, Collins’ statements from the interview resurfaced and have gone viral.
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