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12:51 pm UTC Jun. 23, 2021
12:02 pm UTC Jun. 23, 2021
Editor’s Note: The USA TODAY NETWORK will be auctioning its inaugural non-fungible token (NFT) inspired by the first newspaper delivered to space in 1971. Apollo 14 astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American in space, transported a special edition of TODAY, now FLORIDA TODAY and part of the USA TODAY NETWORK, to the moon and back. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Shepard’s visit, select stories from that edition are being republished, and visual journalist Pat Shannahan assembled more than 300 photographs, illustrations and front pages from five decades of space coverage to re-create the cover as an interactive mosaic. Auction proceeds will benefit the Air Force Space & Missile Museum Foundation in Brevard County and the Gannett Foundation. More information at nft.usatoday.com
Space veterans and family men. Intelligent men and skilled pilots. Fate picked them for a never-to-be-fotgotten role in history. Here is a glimpse into their lives, lives which will never be completely private again because their mission is landing on the moon.?
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“I’ll be like the guy who flew the Atlantic after Charles Lindbergh, old what’s-his-name.”’
Speaking was Michael Collins, the man who will go to the moon — almost.
He added, as if for emphasis, “I don’t feel in the slightest bit frustrated. I’m going 99.99 per cent of the way,
and that suits me just fine.”
Incredibly, you almost believe him.
But perhaps getting even that close helps, because Collins was a lunar trip bridesmaid before.
He was a medical reject for the Apollo 8 journey around the moon.
In mid-1968 Collins, 38, an Air Force lieutenant colonel, was working toward the flight of Apollo 8 under Com mander Frank Borman. But he began having trouble with sensations in his limbs, and doctors discovered a bone spur on his neck.
He was pulled off the Apollo 8 crew, and then faced a decision between an operation which was relatively safe and would eliminate the side effects, or an operation which was dangerous but might result in a cure.
For Collins the answer was simple: go for the cure.
Most astronauts are known for their lack of romance, their jargon-filled language, mechanical habits and conditioned reflexes.
Astronaut Michael Collins prepares to board on Apollo 11 for the beginning of a mission to the moon 16 July 1969.NASA/AFP via Getty Images
A Poet at Heart
But when Collins left home for his first space flight, Gemini 10, he left behind a poem for his wife to read.
He knew he might never come back, and he let poet John Magee speak through the words of every pilot’s favorite poem, “High Flight.” The final lines go:
“T’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace, where never lark or even eagle flew. And while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod the untrespassed sanctity of space, put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”
Collins is more than a military man and a husband who likes poetry. He is also practical.
During Apollo 11 he will wait in lunar orbit while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin go down to walk on the surface.
He will be manning the three-man Apollo mother ship by himself, hopping from the left couch (controls) to the right (to monitor equipment performance), staying alert for the possibility of an emergency where he might have to swoop down to a lower orbit and try to rendezvous and dock with the Lunar Module.
Practically, he expects his day alone in the mother ship to be like Gordon Cooper found his one-day Mercury flight — interesting but not too exciting.
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Mike Collins was born in Rome, Italy, while his father was stationed there in 1930s. But to Collins, Washington, D.C. is home and a town where important things are happening and the future being shaped.
Collins was one year behind Aldrin at West Point, He joined the Air Force after graduation. His father, an Army general, didn’t object.
He eventually got interested in test flying, and went to Edwards Air Force Base in California as an experimental test pilot. While there he met a civilian test pilot named Neil Armstrong.
Collins’ interest in space was up, and he applied for the astronaut corps. He was turned down.
He applied again, and in 1963 joined the space agency at Houston. At the time he expected to fly into space late in the Apollo program, if he was lucky.
The Apollo 11 Saturn V space vehicle lifts off 16 July 1969 with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin E. Aldrin aboard. …
The Apollo 11 Saturn V space vehicle lifts off 16 July 1969 with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin E. Aldrin aboard. Druing the eight day mission, Armstrong and Aldrin descended to the the moon for 22 hours, including 2 and 1/2 hours outside the lunar module, while Collins orbited overhead in the command module. Armstrong and Aldrin gathered samples of lunar material and deployed scientific experiments before joining Collins for the return trip to Earth.NASA/AFP via Getty Images
In July 1966, alongside John Young, Collins rode a Titan 2 rocket into orbit around the earth, became the United States’ second spacewalker and calmly reported while outside the craft, “It’s about like we predicted.”
Later Collins revealed that he almost got his lifeline tangled with the Agena target during the spacewalk and had difficulty moving around, but ‘everything worked out all right.”
When Gemini 10 was over, Collins took his wife to France where they visited the Paris Air Show. He demonstrated an Apollo mockup for a Soviet Cosmonaut, and then sneaked away to Chambley, France, where they had been married 10 years before. They repeated their vows privately.
When Collins came home the Apollo 8 assignment was waiting and he has been working toward the moon ever since, making the most of the few hours he now gets to spend at home with wife Pat and children Kathleen, 10, Ann, 7, and Mike, 6.
Picture dated 16 July 1969 of Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon, at Kennedy Space Center in Houston with other…
Picture dated 16 July 1969 of Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon, at Kennedy Space Center in Houston with other crew members astronauts Michael Collins and Edwin Aldrin before their lunar mission. (Photo by STF / AFP) (Photo credit should read STF/AFP via Getty Images)STF, AFP via Getty Images
Consider Neil Armstrong’s record:
As a military pilot in Korea he was shot down.
As commander of the Gemini 8 spaceflight he was part of the first and only emergency landing in the history of America’s space program.
As an Apollo astronaut he had to bail out of a Lunar Module trainer.
And as an honored guest at an informal dinner-dance at a Cape Kennedy roller rink, he borrowed a pair of skates, whizzed out onto the dance floor — and fell.
That’s Neil Armstrong: Down to earth.
And he’ll command the first crew to land on the moon.
Armstrong was chosen to become the first man to set foot on the lunar surface because he is imminently qualified and not — as his past would have you believe — because everything that could possibly happen to him already has.
Armstrong, a civilian, 38, and already the pride of his hometown Wapakoneta (Wapak for short), Ohio, is destined to become the hero of the decade, and maybe even of the century.
This is the role that doesn’t seem to fit his low-key manner.
Does he feel the excitement, the challenge, the romance, the history and the drama?
“I see it as a group achievement,” he replies.
When he was notified his crew had been selected to attempt the first lunar landing, he waited until after he got home from work to tell his wife.
And his first public words after being chosen for the historic flight were, “Well, our Command Module is: Command Module number 107.”
Armstrong thinks and acts like a professional pilot-engineer.
Neil A. Armstrong, commander for the Apollo XI Moon-landing mission, practicing in a lunar module simulator, Kennedy Space Center, July 1969.NASA/AFP via Getty Images
The Lonesome Hero
And he is something of a loner, a fact which the American public may find hard to accept.
Armstrong is aware of the importance of Apollo 11 to the nation and to the world. He just hasn’t had a lot of time to sit around thinking about it.
He is also aware that he personally will be in line for a great deal of adulation, honors and public scrutiny. Even before the flight hordes of reporters and network television crews poured into Wapakoneta and practically drove his family to distraction.
“I suppose,” he reflected recently, “that if there’s any recognizable disadvantage to being in the position I’m in, (a lack of privacy) that is it.”
He thought a minute and added, ‘‘I think that is a fair trade.”
“Neil will adapt,” a friend says. ‘‘He always has.”
Neil Armstrong began adapting a long time ago. He was born in a farmhouse near Wapakoneta — before the doctor arrived.
His early life was pure Midwest, the sort of stuff biographers love.
At the age of six he took his first plane ride in a Ford tri-motor. He loved it.
At age 13, he rode his bicycle three miles to the nearest airport, while decorating his room with pictures of airplanes.
At age 15 he worked in one of the town’s two drugstores to finance flying lessons.
On his 16th birthday Neil Armstrong became a licensed pilot and rode his bicycle home to tell his parents. He had not learned to drive a car.
In high school he became an Eagle Scout. He played in the school band and performed in a short-lived group called “The Moonshiners.”
Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong’s right foot leaves a footprint in the lunar soil 20 July 1969 as he and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin become the…
Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong’s right foot leaves a footprint in the lunar soil 20 July 1969 as he and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin become the first men to set foot on the surface of the moon. AFP PHOTO/NASA (Photo by – / NASA / AFP) (Photo by -/NASA/AFP via Getty Images)-, NASA/AFP via Getty Images
The History Books
Jake Zint, a draftsman and amateur astronomer, used to let Armstrong look through his eight-inch telescope and still remembers, ‘“‘he talked more about the moon than any other part of the heavens.”
Armstrong graduated from high school at 16, and built a wind tunnel for airplanes as a senior science project.
At 17 he entered Purdue University to study aeronautical engineering under a Navy program which paid his way in exchange for good grades and military service.
After two years at Purdue he was called to active duty, sent to flight school, and at 19 was on his way to Korea.
In 10 months he flew 78 combat missions off the carrier Essex. He was shot down and had to bail out, but he wasn’t hurt.
In 1952, at 22 years old, he left the Navy and went back to finish at Purdue.
Apollo 11 space mission US astronaut Neil Armstrong poses with his wife Janet and his two sons Eric and Mark, on July 11, 1969.AFP, AFP via Getty Images
Beauty Queen Bride
In contrast to his campus life before the war, he became active in campus activities, joined a fraternity, started dating a sophomore beauty queen and was graduated in 1955.
He went to work for the National Advisory Council on Aeronautics in Cleveland because he couldn’t get a job at Edwards Air Force Base where he wanted to be.
In 1956 he married the Purdue beauty queen, and they made their home at Edwards. Armstrong won the job he wanted most.
He became a civilian experimental test pilot, first for NACA and later for NASA. He flew just about everything the United States was developing, up to and including the X-15 rocket plane.
He joined the elite group of men who flew the X-15 over 200,000 feet high and to speeds over 4,000 miles an hour.
Ironically, Armstrong at first didn’t want to be an astronaut.
A friend recalls: ‘Some of us tried to talk Neil into applying for the first group, but he was very hesitant. He thought the rocket-plane was the way to go into space, and those Mercury people were nuts.”
But when Mércury flew successfully in 1961, Armstrong finally applied and was accepted with the second group in 1962.
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The Armstrong family settled in Houston near the Manned Spacecraft Center, and at about the time Neil began working on the Gemini program, Janet Armstrong presented him with a second son. The boys are Eric, 12, and Mark, 6.
He first won a back-up slot and then was named commander of Gemini 8.
A Near Disaster
On March 16, 1966, Armstrong and co-pilot Dave Scott roared off the Cape Kennedy launch pad, chased and caught an Agena target which preceded them into space, and then flew right into near-disaster.
An electric failure stuck a control jet wide open, tumbling the locked-up spacecraft wildly in space.
Armstrong fought and regained control, separated the two craft, and then stopped the wild tumbling.
Ground officials ordered them to land as soon as possible, and they made the first emergency splashdown in the Pacific.
Both astronauts were decorated for their skill and courage.
Armstrong won another back-up slot in Gemini 11, and then began training for Apollo.
The official biographers say Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. is an Air Force colonel, an astronaut, and Lunar Module pilot for Apollo 11.
In the cold world of official government biographies, no mention is made of what is destined to be Buzz Aldrin’s role in history: the second man to set foot on the moon.
No mention is made of the role he almost played — that of the first.
And little shows through to indicate what Buzz Aldrin the man is really like.
He accepts the fact that Commander Neil Armstrong will set foot on the moon first because he is the commander and that’s just the way things are.
Apollo 11 space mission US astronaut Buzz Aldrin is seen back aboard the lunar module “Eagle” on July 21, 1969 after spending more than 2…
Apollo 11 space mission US astronaut Buzz Aldrin is seen back aboard the lunar module “Eagle” on July 21, 1969 after spending more than 2 hours on the lunar surface. US astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were the first men in history to set foot on the moon’s surface. After about seven hours of rest aboard “Eagle”, they were awakened by Houston to prepare for the return flight and rejoin Michael Collins aboard “Columbia” in lunar orbit.AFP via Getty Images
Even after it became clear that plans would change and Armstrong would be the first man on the moon, Aldrin remained unflappable.
“All of us,” he said, “have been hoping that fate would be kind enough to put us in this position.”
Aldrin, 39, looks like an astronaut. Square-jawed, crew-cut, tanned and muscled — he resembles a slimmed-down Aldo Ray in the role of a Marine drill instructor.
He is patient, dedicated, intense and very, very smart.
Aldrin was the first Ph.D. to join the astronaut corps.
Even before he became an astronaut he wrote his thesis at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on the orbital mechanics involved in accomplishing space rendezvous — a technique upon which his life will depend during Apollo 11.
“He’s the only guy I know who can work out those complex rendezvous equations in his head,” an engineer at the Manned Spacecraft Center says.
Aldrin is also the somewhat reluctant celebrity. He was recently honored by a group of Cocoa Beach Masons who took him in as a “Sojourner.”
DC, UNITED STATES: This 20 July 1969 file photo released by NASA shows astronaut Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. saluting the US flag on…
DC, UNITED STATES: This 20 July 1969 file photo released by NASA shows astronaut Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. saluting the US flag on the surface of the Moon during the Apollo 11 lunar mission. The 20th July 1999 marks the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and man’s first walk on the Moon. AFP PHOTO NASA (Photo credit should read NASA/AFP via Getty Images)NASA, AFP via Getty Images
Accidentally the attractive television actress Barbara (1. Dream of Jeannie) Eden was in town, and the photographers urged the two to kiss for the cameras.
They did, but Aldrin looked like he would have been happier back home at his desk working with his equations.
Aldrin was born in the small town of Montclair, N.J., at the beginning of the depression. His father had retired from the military but was still active in aviation, running the airport at Newark.
The elder Aldrin had been a pilot under Gen. Billy Mitchell, and even had a hand in financing some early rocket experiments by Robert Goddard.
Montclair remembers Buzz Aldrin as a blond, blue-eyed perfectionist who made good grades, played center on the football team and went on to West Point to get a good free education.
Everybody liked him, they recall, but nobody got too close.
At 160 pounds the West Point coach decided he would make a better track man, and Aldrin proved him right. In the era before fiberglass poles, he vaulted over 13 feet.
At West Point he showed again that he was smart, graduating third in his class and promptly going after his wings in the Air Force.
He got them and was sent to Korea where he flew 66 combat missions ‘chasing and not being chased.”
He earned his doctorate in astronautics in 1963 and moved to Houston to work with the space agency on rendezvous targets for Gemini. He applied, and was turned — for the astronaut program because he was not a test pilot.
Apollo 11 space mission US astronaut Buzz Aldrin is seen conducting experiments with the Passive Experiment Package (PSE) on the moon’s surface on a picture…
Apollo 11 space mission US astronaut Buzz Aldrin is seen conducting experiments with the Passive Experiment Package (PSE) on the moon’s surface on a picture taken by Neil Armstrong after both climbed down the ladder of the lunar module “Eagle” on July 21, 1969 to become the first men in history to set foot on the moon’s surface. AFP PHOTO NASA (Photo by – / NASA / AFP) (Photo credit should read -/AFP via Getty Images)-, AFP via Getty Images
He kept applying, sure that the requirement would be lifted eventually.
It was and in 1963 he became an astronaut — the first with an advanced degree.
In 1965, he was chosen as back-up pilot for Gemini 9, and then in 1966 was picked to try and solve problems in space as co-pilot of Gemini 12.
Spacewalking was more than a spectacular stunt, it was essential in planning moonwalking.
In November 1966 he spent more than five hours outside the safety of the spacecraft, proving that it could be done without undue strain.
The Aldrins have three children: Mike, 13; Jan, 12, and Andy, 11.
Joan Aldrin recalls the night before the Gemini 12 liftoff when they were at the beach looking up at the moon and stars above the beach at Cape Kennedy.
She admired the sky while Buzz studied it through a sextant.
12:51 pm UTC Jun. 23, 2021
12:02 pm UTC Jun. 23, 2021
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