How Michael Collins felt as he circled the Moon out of radio contact with Earth

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Today's quote of the day comes from here, the Wikipedia page on Michael Collins (the third astronaut on Apollo 11 who went with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

During his day of solo flying around the Moon, Collins never felt lonely. Although it has been said that "not since Adam has any human known such solitude", Collins felt very much a part of the mission...During the 48 minutes of each orbit that he was out of radio contact with Earth, the feeling he reported was not loneliness, but rather "awareness, anticipation, satisfaction, confidence, almost exultation".
At the time when the US was just beginning to take its first steps on the Moon it probably felt almost as if one were founding something akin to the United Federation of Planets (not in scope, but coolness) and if there's one part of the White House's new plan for space that needs to be criticized it's that not only does it ignore the Moon but also is a bit too nuanced and uninspirational to give astronauts and supporters of space exploration that kind of feeling.

Mind you, I've said before that I don't think the US will seriously be able to ignore the Moon for too long, as nations from Russia to China and others begin to explore the Moon and NASA's mission for just a flyby to Mars is still two decades away. One event that could serve as a wake up call for this would be a launch by China of astronauts to the Moon and back (i.e. to the Moon, one or more orbits around it and then back home), which would be a distance the US hasn't achieved since the early 1970s, in spite of the fact that technically missions like that have been done before. Eventually the US will have no choice but to make a decision to either continue toward a path that will eventually lead to a Mars flyby (20 years away), or join with the rest of the world in exploring the Moon.

An op-ed from yesterday here talks about the same subject.

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