<<Michael Collins (October 31, 1930 – April 28, 2021) was an American astronaut who flew the Apollo 11 command module Columbia around the Moon in 1969 while his crewmates, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, made the first crewed landing on the surface. On April 28, 2021, Collins died from cancer in Naples, Florida at the age of 90.
During his day flying solo around the Moon, Collins never felt lonely. Although it has been said "not since Adam has any human known such solitude". In his autobiography he wrote "this venture has been structured for three men, and I consider my third to be as necessary as either of the other two". In the 48 minutes of each orbit when he was out of radio contact with the Earth while Columbia passed round the far side of the Moon, the feeling he reported was not fear or loneliness, but rather "awareness, anticipation, satisfaction, confidence, almost exultation".
One of Collins' first tasks was to identify the lunar module on the ground. To give Collins an idea where to look, Mission Control radioed that they believed the lunar module landed about four miles off target. Each time he passed over the suspected lunar landing site, he tried in vain to find the lunar module. On his first two orbits on the far side of the Moon, Collins performed maintenance activities such as dumping excess water produced by the fuel cells and preparing the cabin for Armstrong and Aldrin to return. Columbia orbited the Moon thirty times.
Just before he reached the far side on the third orbit, Mission Control informed Collins there was a problem with the temperature of the coolant. If it became too cold, parts of Columbia might freeze. Mission Control advised him to assume manual control and implement Environmental Control System Malfunction Procedure 17. Instead, Collins flicked the switch on the offending system from automatic to manual and back to automatic again, and carried on with normal housekeeping chores, while keeping an eye on the temperature. When Columbia came back around to the near side of the Moon again, he was able to report that the problem had been resolved. For the next couple of orbits, he described his time on the far side of the Moon as "relaxing". After Aldrin and Armstrong completed their EVA, Collins slept so he could be rested for the rendezvous. While the flight plan called for Eagle to meet up with Columbia, Collins was prepared for certain contingencies in which he would fly Columbia down to meet Eagle.
In a July 2009 interview with The Guardian, Collins said that he was very worried about Armstrong and Aldrin's safety. He was also concerned in the event of their deaths on the Moon, he would be forced to return to Earth alone and, as the mission's sole survivor, be regarded as "a marked man for life".>>