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Mike Collins RIP

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 Darron 28 Apr 2021

Another childhood hero passes. In my view the most interesting of the Apollo astronauts. His 1974 autobiography ‘Carrying the fire’ is by a lunar mile the best of the space bio’s.

Just imagine if you had lived his life. Breathtaking.

 profitofdoom 28 Apr 2021
In reply to Darron:

> Another childhood hero passes. In my view the most interesting of the Apollo astronauts. His 1974 autobiography ‘Carrying the fire’ is by a lunar mile the best of the space bio’s.

> Just imagine if you had lived his life. Breathtaking.

Sad. RIP Mike Collins. One of my heroes. I've read CARRYING THE FIRE several times, I think it's great and as you said, the best of the astronaut books by far IMO too

In reply to Darron:

Sad news. I really loved listening to the BBC Sounds podcast 13 minutes to the moon. 

In reply to Darron:

Very much the quiet, unsung hero of that mission. I'll have to look out the autobiography, thanks.

 wercat 28 Apr 2021
In reply to Darron:

Very sorry to hear it.  He wasn't the forgotten astronaut as far as I was concerned.

 veteye 28 Apr 2021
In reply to Darron:

As usual, I wanted to give all of the above replies a like, but they do not exist with RIP threads.

I agree with you all that Mike Collins played a strong essential role, and I always wondered what it was like being left behind, whilst the others went even more into the limelight.

Anyway he survived for a long time after the space role. RIP Mike.

 Andy Hardy 28 Apr 2021
In reply to veteye:

I can't imagine what it must have been like for him on his own, orbiting the moon while Armstrong and Aldrin were getting all the glory. Travelling round the back of the moon, out of sight and radio communications with any other human beings, in a lashed up bean can would require some significant cojones

In reply to Andy Hardy:

iirc he inadvertently "disappointed" interviewers who hoped for profound and philosophical and soulful answers to the question “how did you feel, totally cut off from all of mankind” by saying something along the lines of “well I was a bit occupied with the piloting and knew I’d pop back into radio contact soon enough anyway, so I didn’t really think about it”. 

Tom Wolfe addresses this re: the Gemini program too, in his book The Right Stuff, by pointing out that by the time they were up in space, these astronauts were essentially the most prepared people for a job, ever, and the flights were so rehearsed that the actual missions were almost a token gesture. Hence the final scenes of the FILM of The Right Stuff showing Gordon Cooper so cool and bored that he dozes off in his capsule awaiting launch (maybe poetic licence!)

 

In reply to Darron:

Hands up who sat through the Liam Neeson movie "Michael Collins" wondering when the space flights were going to start. 

 

 Darron 28 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Poetic licence indeed I think. Mercury, Gemini and Apollo were developed (thanks to Kennedy’s deadline) at a speed not imaginable today. Collins take, as he sat atop the most powerful machine ever built, was that “every single component in this spacecraft was built by the cheapest tender”. These guys new exactly the deal. The right stuff.

 profitofdoom 29 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

......by the time they were up in space, these astronauts were essentially the most prepared people for a job, ever, and the flights were so rehearsed that the actual missions were almost a token gesture......

I appreciate the thought, but in CARRYING THE FIRE Collins said something quite different, something like 'Only those of us within the program know how dangerous it is' (I don't have the book in front of me so cannot quote directly). He also wrote that the day before the moon landing, all 3 of them had real concerns and considered that actually landing and returning was far from a sure thing, and that it was too bad that the general public thought it was a sure thing 

 nikoid 29 Apr 2021
In reply to profitofdoom:

Collins knew that he would be coming home on his own if the LM ascent engine failed. Imagine having to live with that!

 Lankyman 29 Apr 2021
In reply to Darron:

I can't recall which, but one of the Apollo crews still holds the record for being the furthest humans from Earth. Might also have the speed record too although that may be held by another Apollo mission. I actually saw one of them (Frank Borman, Apollo 8) when I was a kid as he was invited to attend the Liverpool Show. I sat up to watch the 11 moon landing and it really was (still is!) one of humanity's great moments.

 profitofdoom 29 Apr 2021
In reply to nikoid:

> Collins knew that he would be coming home on his own if the LM ascent engine failed. Imagine having to live with that!

That's right, and in his book Collins said that happening was his fear, and that if it had happened, he would have been "a marked man for life"

 JMarkW 29 Apr 2021
In reply to Darron:

Mission Control: "How's it going?"

Collins: "Swimmingly"

What a guy!

In reply to Darron and profitofdoom:

Fair enough, To be honest I wouldn't put "poetic licence" past Tom Wolfe. Although maybe that Cooper thing was specifically about Cooper?

I'd forgotten it was Collins who made the "cheapest tender" comment. 
I did read about a third of Carrying the Fire, around 30 years ago. I recall him talking about the astronauts having to go on promotional tours, meeting and greeting kids in shopping malls etc, who would moan if you hadn't been in space, because they wanted a REAL astronaut. Also "survival training" for splashdowns in unplanned locations, including how to cook and eat a lizard. Think he said he just chose to go home hungry that day  

 wercat 29 Apr 2021
In reply to Lankyman:

I seem to remember that the Apollo 10 CM has the record for the fastest reentry speed ever.

I loved the comment Collins made about Buzz Aldrin while the news was being read to them as they approached the moon after a sleep period.  There was an item read from a newspaper about someone breaking a record for eating bowls of porage oats and Collins said something along the lines of "I'd like to enter Aldrin for that competition - he's eating plenty - on his eighth bowl".  that is the sort of humour that glues a crew together I imagine.  Sort of thing that might be said in a climbing hut or bivvy.

my words are an attempt to paraphrase a memory - the full text is available in the pretty complete transcript of the 11 mission communications with mission control available on the net.

Post edited at 12:05
In reply to Darron:

Just checking that my memory wasn't playing tricks on me....yes, Collins was played by Lukas Haas (still best remembered as the little boy in the Harrison Ford 1980s film "Witness") in 2018's offbeat Armstrong film, First Man. 

 Darron 29 Apr 2021
In reply to Lankyman:

> I can't recall which, but one of the Apollo crews still holds the record for being the furthest humans from Earth. Might also have the speed record too although that may be held by another Apollo mission. I actually saw one of them (Frank Borman, Apollo 8) when I was a kid as he was invited to attend the Liverpool Show. I sat up to watch the 11 moon landing and it really was (still is!) one of humanity's great moments.

I think that was Apollo 13. The burn to put them onto a free return trajectory took them further out on the far side. As a little trivia fact only 24 human beings have left low Earth orbit and into ‘outer space’. Feel free to try and work out who they are!

 Darron 29 Apr 2021
In reply to wercat:

I’m not sure the crew were that glued together really. They were very different personalities. Collins asserts that they never became close. They also did not train together as much as people might think, Armstrong &Aldrin had a very different job to Collins and the amount of time training (often in different locations)reflected that. They were undeniably highly trained professionals however who pulled together to get the job done. All from a military background of course.

In reply to Darron:

The recent Apollo 11 documentary is more than worth seeing, preferably on a big screen (the whole cinema vibrating at the launch was awesome).What came across to me was at just how many points it could have all gone wrong. I find the trailer really spine-tingling. The shots of the astronauts being suited up before the launch say it all.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://m.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DRSTucPDS0-8&ved=2ahUKEwi6g7DavaPwAhURoVwKHXa9BR0Q28sGMAR6BAgmEAk&usg=AOvVaw2EPChO1wLTGnCAsVNa-Hx1

In reply to Darron:

> As a little trivia fact only 24 human beings have left low Earth orbit and into ‘outer space’. Feel free to try and work out who they are!

This reminds of a fun and very short mathematics lesson I had to give to Tom V of this parish, about repetitions  

The lesson was "Some went more than once"  

 Nic 29 Apr 2021
In reply to Darron:

Slightly OT as Collins didn't go in it, but I remember seeing the Lunar Module in the Smithsonian Museum, and thinking "I wouldn't drive down the road to the chemists in that thing, let alone land on the Moon in it"

 Jamie Wakeham 29 Apr 2021
In reply to Darron:

It's simply the crews of Apollo 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17, right?  Presumably three members went twice (and Apollo 9 was LEO only).

How many of them are still alive?  We are very close now to having no living human that's ever left LEO or stepped upon another body.  Who would have predicted that when Apollo 17 returned in 1972?

 Pedro50 29 Apr 2021
In reply to Darron:

> I think that was Apollo 13. The burn to put them onto a free return trajectory took them further out on the far side. As a little trivia fact only 24 human beings have left low Earth orbit and into ‘outerpollospace’. Feel free to try and work out who they are!

I can only get to 23. Jim Lovell was on Apollo 8 and Apollo 13. Feel free to enlighten me. Correction Cernan went twice and I'd forgotten Apollo 10, so I've missed one other repeater.

Post edited at 17:39
In reply to Darron:

> I think that was Apollo 13. The burn to put them onto a free return trajectory took them further out on the far side. As a little trivia fact only 24 human beings have left low Earth orbit and into ‘outer space’. Feel free to try and work out who they are!

That's correct. It meant they looped around the moon but didn't go into lunar orbit. Hence they didn't need to use the command module engine to initiate the return. They did do a couple of course corrections on the way back so they'd land in the Pacific rather than the Indian Ocean. If you're having trouble sleeping, the Wikipedia entry for "Free return trajectory" is a great help.

I actually think Apollo 13 was the greatest achievement of the Apollo program.

In reply to Andy Long:

I couldn't be bothered to watch the Tom Hanks replay for years because I could still clearly remember the original - the whole world (well at least that segment that had access to TV *) was gripped for several days. IIRC they didn't take too long to work out that they could get Apollo 13 back down onto Earth, the big suspense was whether they could do it with alive astronauts.

* - with such a high proportion of people having access to the internet today, realising that it was a relatively small segment of the world's population that had TV only 50 years ago is quite shocking. Of course in the western world this wasn't so apparent since most had TVs.

Post edited at 20:18
 Darron 29 Apr 2021
In reply to Pedro50:

John Young flew on 10 and 16 so I think the 3 who went twice were Lovell (8&13), Young (10&16) and Cernan (10&17). Cernan is, of course, the answer to the oft asked quiz question “who was the last man on the moon?”

In reply to Andy Hardy:

I think the tough bit was if things went tits up for Armstrong and Aldrin on the surface, Collins would be travelling home alone.

In reply to Robert Durran:

> What came across to me was at just how many points it could have all gone wrong.

That's what gets me. From the launch, right up to whether the parachutes would open at the end. 

In reply to mbh:

> That's what gets me. From the launch, right up to whether the parachutes would open at the end. 

What I find boggling is the actual navigation, getting all the burns right. Most of all, how the hell did they manage to get everything right to link up the lunar module with command module again after the landing?

In reply to Robert Durran:

https://www.nasa.gov/content/katherine-johnson-biography

'As a part of the preflight checklist, Glenn asked engineers to “get the girl”—Johnson—to run the same numbers through the same equations that had been programmed into the computer, but by hand, on her desktop mechanical calculating machine.  “If she says they’re good,’” Katherine Johnson remembers the astronaut saying, “then I’m ready to go.”'

In reply to mbh:

I think Apollo was the greatest engineering feat in the history of man. The statistics are are staggering. Just one example: The complete Saturn rocket had 41 rocket motors, all of which had to work more or less perfectly. By just the time of the first stage separation (2 1/2 mins after launch) the vehicle had lost 5 million pounds in weight (about three quarters of its total launch weight). The whole mission was planned to be over 195 hours from launch to splash-down. In the event, splashdown occurred about 30 seconds ahead of schedule.

I love the understated covering letter of the Apollo 11 mission report, from the Program Director to the head of NASA, in which he wrote: "I recommend that the Apollo 11 Mission be adjudged as having achieved the primary objective of a manned lunar landing and return, and be considered a success".

In reply to captain paranoia:

And "When asked to name her greatest contribution to space exploration, Johnson would talk about the calculations that helped synch Project Apollo’s Lunar Module with the lunar-orbiting Command and Service Module".

 John Gresty 09:29 Sat
In reply to Darron:

I saw the musical 'Moon Landing' in Derby Playhouse many years ago. This was produced specifically for Derby Playhouse,  I don't know if it has been put on anywhere since then, but I thought it was superb.

Possibly too expensive for a local theatre as a large cast and plenty of props, but well worth seeking out.

John

In reply to John Stainforth:

> I think Apollo was the greatest engineering feat in the history of man.

Definitely. It was just so far ahead of its time. You just have to think how relatively primitive so many technologies were, but somehow they were put together to pull it off.

 wercat 10:07 Sat
In reply to Robert Durran:

don't know, nothing primitive about Nouns and Verbs compared to Windows ..

 GrahamD 12:19 Sat
In reply to Robert Durran:

I'm not sure that the engineering in the Apollo missions was ahead of its time.  Its more the sheer drive needed to pull all the existing disparate bits together in stupid quick time that's staggering. Without a doubt the result is spectacular and impressive but I'd argue that the engineering and technology that's allowing me to type this reply on a tiny hand held device is more impressive.  From mind numbing miniaturisation to establishing global standards that allow it to work just about anywhere.  And I've not even touched on its camera or GPS capability !

 wercat 13:01 Sat
In reply to GrahamD:

surface mount 3v computer logic - how long was it before you see that in commercial computers?

You can see the same level of technology in the clansman radio system of the same era - to see those surface mount logic packages is amazing.  The leaps in technology stimulated by the Apollo program were enormous and perhaps wouldn't have happened but for the need to develop compact triple redundant backups in the space available.

your technology is not more impressive, because it sits on the shoulders of giants and is dependent on those giant strides.  Your phone would not have happened but for the rapid evolution of digital computers over the decades and there is no doubt that Apollo jumped that forward tremendously.  ~Hence the amusement of the Apollo astronauts with their 1960s technology in encountering 1940s style electromechanical logic in the Russian spacecraft during the Apollo Soyuz mission in the  mid1970s.

Post edited at 13:01
In reply to GrahamD:

You're right, but surely what sets Apollo apart from so many other, by any objective standard, equally or even more impressive technical achievements such as smart phones is that people would have died if it hadn't worked out, and that a few people had to be willing to sit on the pointy end of Up-Goer-5 and go through with it.

Apart from the engineering achievment, which is so, so impressive, I am in total awe of the bravery of the Apollo astronauts, among them Michael Collins, who we are here to remember.

In reply to John Stainforth:

> I love the understated covering letter of the Apollo 11 mission report.....

That is marvellous. Very much in the spirit of how I imagine Armstrong would have reported whatever life-threatening part of his day job he had just survived.

 GrahamD 16:21 Sat
In reply to mbh:

Oh, in terms of human achievement I totally agree about Apollo.  But to think of the Smartphone as just the phone misses my point.  Behind that phone is a complete internet built on many, many international standards.

 Lankyman 16:26 Sat
In reply to GrahamD:

> Oh, in terms of human achievement I totally agree about Apollo.  But to think of the Smartphone as just the phone misses my point.  Behind that phone is a complete internet built on many, many international standards.

But your phone won't disappear into the sky on a pillar of fire and an earthquake

In reply to Lankyman:

... and it won't consume 10,000 gallons of fuel per mile like the Saturn V 1st stage!

 wercat 09:38 Sun
In reply to John Stainforth:

sitting on top of the entire stack waiting for ignition must be the ultimate in being "committed" ...

the figure often quoted at the time was iirc seven and a half million pounds of thrust (hopefully thrust and not blast)

In reply to Darron:

> His 1974 autobiography ‘Carrying the fire’ is by a lunar mile the best of the space bio’s.

My copy landed on the doormat yesterday.  Looking forward to reading it.

 GrahamD 14:47 Sun
In reply to Lankyman:

> But your phone won't disappear into the sky on a pillar of fire and an earthquake

As a human achievement,  its fantastic.   One of the greatest.  I just dispute whether its mankind's greatest feat of pure engineering. 

 Darron 18:45 Sun
In reply to Ghastly Rubberfeet:

> My copy landed on the doormat yesterday. 

Did it have about 30 sec of fuel left?😂

 Darron 19:12 Sun
In reply to GrahamD:

I do see what you mean (particularly in the electronics field) but consider this:

When the F1 main engines were at max thrust on the Saturn V (as mentioned above 7.5 million pounds of thrust) the 4 outboard engines were gimballed to be steerable. Just imagine that as an engineering feat.

The Saturn V was assembled in a building and then moved whole several miles, then up a ramp, onto the launch pad. Imagine being the engineer who was told you had to design the crawlers that carried it.

Think how metallurgists and structural engineers had to develop new materials and push the boundaries of existing ones to make the whole work.

There are many more significant engineering advances of Gemini and Apollo. 

At the end of the day this was all due to political expediency and virtually unlimited budget but, I would suggest,  the engineering advances were very significant.

Have a look at ‘How Apollo flew to the moon’ by W. David Woods (whose son is of this parish!) for more.

 Lankyman 19:53 Sun
In reply to Darron:

I recall many years ago reading about how the engineers designed a pack of cards to be flown on Apollo. Rather than take a flammable paper deck they were made of alloy and re-purposed as 'digital dexterity devices' so as to deflect attention away from the cost. The engineers were indeed on top of their game.

 Darron 20:40 Sun
In reply to Lankyman:

Indeed. If you have lemons make lemonade.

In reply to Ghastly Rubberfeet:

> My copy landed on the doormat yesterday.  Looking forward to reading it.

Was it easy to get hold of? Last time I looked (many many years ago) it was out of print and very expensive second hand

In reply to Blue Straggler:

> Was it easy to get hold of? Last time I looked (many many years ago) it was out of print and very expensive second hand

I just looked on amazon.co.uk, many options available, some reasonable if you scroll down, perhaps try there

In reply to Darron:

> Did it have about 30 sec of fuel left?😂

Buzz Aldrin says it was calculated to be about 15 seconds. The official report says that the descent stage only had 2.5% of its fuel left after engine shut-down, and it was planned to have only about 5.1% left, which strikes me as a pretty small margin.

In reply to profitofdoom:

Cheers, that's a starting point, looks like there was a 50th anniversary reprint, great. I'll try to source it non-Amazon because I am a virtue signaller  

In reply to Blue Straggler:

> Was it easy to get hold of? Last time I looked (many many years ago) it was out of print and very expensive second hand

I just went on to the Fred Holdsworth website and ordered it online.
There are two editions currently available.  I went for the more recent one with the updated 50th anniversary intro. 
Circa £14
(Fred's bookshop in Ambleside)

 Chris H 12:31 Mon
In reply to Darron:

Ive just been reading up on the race to put a man into space. The KGB wanted to put a bomb inside Yuri Gagarin's rocket so it could be blown up if it looked like it was landing in USA territory but eventually were talked out of it. The whole thing was automated and virtually the only controls  YG had were the cabin lighting and radio volume. At the last minute a manual control panel was added behind a a code in a sealed envelope (1-3-5 if anyone is interested) so that YG had access to a joystick so that he could control re-entry angles if necc (and save his own life).  The flight was calculated to have a 49% chance of success. YG had about 3 hours practice using the manual controls as mandatory badminton was considered more important.

Post edited at 12:33
 wercat 13:28 Mon
In reply to Chris H:

putting bombs in advanced airborne equipment has been standard practice since before the end of WW2

and of course Gagarin would have already been dead had he been inside the craft when it landed.

Post edited at 13:33
In reply to Chris H:

There was a cosmonaut after Gagarin who volunteered to fly a mission which 'everyone' knew was fatally flawed, but he knew that if he didn't then Gagarin would have to go instead.

He left instructions that he was to be buried in an open coffin, to shame the Kremlin, and spent his last minutes cursing them. 

 wercat 15:35 Mon
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

poor Vladimir Komarov, still absolutely shocking as the day it was announced

The first cosmonaut Soyuz flight

Post edited at 15:38
 Lankyman 16:42 Mon
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

> There was a cosmonaut after Gagarin who volunteered to fly a mission which 'everyone' knew was fatally flawed, but he knew that if he didn't then Gagarin would have to go instead.

You may be right but I thought Gagarin was grounded since he was too useful as publicity for the Soviet system to be risked a second time?


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