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Michael Collins Is the Forgotten Astronaut of Apollo 11. He Was Perfectly Fine With That.

Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

On July 20, 1969, at 1:46 p.m., Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin separated the Eagle landing craft from the Apollo 11 command module. Michael Collins stayed behind, firing the rockets, moving about two miles away from his colleagues—and 250,000 miles from humanity on earth. He was absolutely and completely alone.

“Keep talking to me, guys,” Collins radioed to the men as he watched their landing craft get smaller and smaller.

At 3:08 p.m., Armstrong and Aldrin, flying feet first, fired the module’s descent engine for the first time, preparing to land on the moon. Collins watched as they made their way down to the chalky, grey surface. He radioed to Mission Control the first report of the descent, saying, “Everything’s going just swimmingly. Beautiful!”


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