Michael Collins and the Dark Side of the Moon

43 years ago today Apollo 11 Astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, became the first men to walk on the moon. Their crew mate, Michael Collins, orbited the moon as they collected rock samples and set up scientific instruments.

Photo of Apollo 11 Mission patch.

Apollo 11 Mission Patch
Design by Michael Collins

“Not since Adam has any human known such solitude as Mike Collins is experiencing during this 47 minutes of each lunar revolution when he’s behind the Moon with no one to talk to except his tape recorder aboard Columbia.”  That is what Mission Control observed as they woke up Collins in the Command/Service Module, Columbia, prior to his reunion with the two Lunar Explorers.

According to an interview with Michael Collins 3 years ago on the Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Mission, Collins was obsessed with “…the reliability of the ascent engine of Armstrong and Aldrin’s lander, Eagle. It had never been fired on the Moon’s surface before and many astronauts had serious doubts about its reliability.”

Here is how Michael Collins put it:
“My secret terror for the last six months has been leaving them on the Moon and returning to Earth alone; now I am within minutes of finding out the truth of the matter,” he wrote. “If they fail to rise from the surface, or crash back into it, I am not going to commit suicide; I am coming home, forthwith, but I will be a marked man for life and I know it.”

Photo of Michael Collins inside space capsule.

Astronaut Michael Collins
Photo Courtesy of NASA

As we all know, the ascent engine did work and the Lunar Module rejoined the C/SM and all 3 astronauts returned safely to Earth. As to his claim to fame, that was simple fate… “Neil Armstrong was born in 1930. Buzz Aldrin was born in 1930, and Mike Collins, 1930. We came along at exactly the right time. We survived hazardous careers and were successful in them. But in my own case at least, it was 10% shrewd planning and 90% blind luck. Put ‘Lucky’ on my tombstone.”

Update: January 1, 2014

President Nixon’s speechwriter, William Safire, had the job of drafting an announcement to be read by the President in the event that astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin were stranded on the Moon and unable to return to Earth.  Click here to read that chilling memo on the Letters of Note website.

Update: May 28, 2016

Astronomers Make Surprising Discovery on Dark Side of the Moon

Update: January 4, 2019

Why the Far Side of the Moon Matters So Much

  12 comments for “Michael Collins and the Dark Side of the Moon

  1. March 24, 2017 at 6:01 PM

    Fascinating history, Allan. I am trying to imagine what that would feel like and it’s impossible. Great post.


  2. January 30, 2015 at 7:32 PM

    By the way, if you haven’t found it, you might find Timothy Good’s most recent book interesting…. interesting information- recently released information- on this and related topics….


    • January 30, 2015 at 7:41 PM

      Thanks for the tip. I am not familiar with him and I will look for his book.

      Liked by 1 person

      • January 31, 2015 at 9:31 AM

        There is so much history of our own era yet to be released. We live in amazing times 😉 Good is a well-connected and thorough researcher. His work opens one’s mind to new understandings of our multiverse. Best wishes, WG


      • January 31, 2015 at 11:01 AM

        I googled him last night. He is a very interesting, and controversial, man.


      • January 31, 2015 at 1:51 PM

        Many interesting men tend to be controversial, especially if they have a novel understanding of things. 😉


      • February 1, 2015 at 6:38 AM

        That is true.


  3. January 30, 2015 at 3:14 PM

    Allan, thank you for your generous ‘likes’ today and for following my blog. You might enjoy the photos of tonight’s moon just posted. What a rich and beautiful site you have here- best wishes, WG


  4. July 21, 2012 at 6:31 PM

    As the years go by, the magnitude of their achievement grows exponentially. How did they accomplish so much with technology that now seems so primitive, and, more to the point, why can’t we Americans accomplish anything great like this as a civilization anymore? When did we stop dreaming so big?


    • July 22, 2012 at 4:30 AM

      I understand what you are saying, Bill. Go to http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/MkATdOcdU06X5uNHbmqm1Q.aspx and read the transcript of President Kennedy’s speech at Rice University where he lays out a brief history of the world-to-date and then throws down the challenge to explore Space.

      I had not read the entire speech until yesterday and JFK left me in awe. Say what you may about him, he was a visionary and an eloquent speaker.

      Thank you for sharing your insight on this subject.


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