More than 50 years ago, on July 21, 1969, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins became international celebrities when their Apollo 11 mission successfully put the first man on the Moon. Armstrong became an overnight sensation, jumping off the lunar lander and delivering his iconic “one small step” speech to the millions watching back home, before being joined by Aldrin shortly after. Meanwhile, Collins piloted the Command Module Columbia alone in lunar orbit for 21 hours, while the pair carried out their experiments on the Moon.
But, the legendary astronaut revealed the true realities of their heroics during an interview with ABC.
He said in 2019: “They were wonderful crew-mates, each in their own way.
“Buzz was, from a technical background, Neil was not only a highly-experienced test pilot, but he knew the whys and the wherefores of what of the spacecraft.
“You were knocked back and forward during liftoff, that went on for maybe five or six seconds before it was over and we were clear.
We flipped over into stable two and I owed Neil a case of beer
“We looked out the window and my God that Moon was immense and so three-dimensional.
“You have the sunlight illuminating the ring of the surface.
“I looked back from 230,000 miles away and I saw this tiny little object, somehow beyond its size and gloss, it projects a feeling of fragility, it’s a fragile tiny little thing.”
Collins, now 89, said he was not envious that he never got to step foot on the Moon.
He added: “I like being in the command module by myself, I had my own little way of doing things, I had hot coffee, I took the centre seat out and it was almost like being in a little church.
“As far as feeling left out or anything, not at all, I felt very much an equal partner with them.
“They only had one little motor, that was it and it had to work perfectly.
“If it didn’t they were stuck on the Moon and I was not going to commit suicide.”
The former test pilot then highlighted the sobering predicament that Armstrong and Aldrin may not have made it back from the Moon, in which case he admitted he would have returned home alone.
He continued: “I was going to come home and I would not have been a happy returnee, I’d be a marked man for the rest of my life.
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“I worried about ever having to be in that situation.”
He went on to reveal he had made a bet with Armstrong, but only lost thanks to a mistake from Aldrin.
He continued: “I had bet Neil a case of beer that we would not flip over during return.
“We hit the ocean so fast that Buzz, who was all prepared, his hand was jerked off and he missed the circuit breakers.
“I turned the switches and they didn’t work, because he hadn’t pushed in the breakers.
“So we flipped over into stable two and I owed Neil a case of beer.”
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