The Apollo 11 astronaut who never landed on the Moon

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On July 20, 1969, city streets were quiet across America as people everywhere watched the Apollo 11 moon landing on television.

As intense as that was, it couldn’t match the silence Michael Collins – the third, and often forgotten, Apollo 11 astronaut – experienced.

(from left to right) Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot

Collins piloted the Columbia, the mothership that stayed in orbit above the Moon while Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin took the Eagle lunar module to the surface.

Whenever the Columbia passed over the Moon’s far side, Collins fell out of communication range from mission control and the other two astronauts. This happened multiple times. He even missed Armstrong’s famous words, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

After over 21 hours, Armstrong and Aldrin flew the Eagle up to the Columbia and rejoined Collins for the return home.

While many people think of Armstrong and Aldrin when they think of Apollo 11, very few remember Collins.

Though he never walked on the Moon like other astronauts, Collins has said he’s happy to have been part of the historic mission, which ultimately would have been impossible without him.

Interested in learning more about the historic Apollo 11 mission? Join us for our weekend-long celebration of the mission’s 50th anniversary on July 20 and 21! Get tickets now for Moon Mania: The 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11.

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