At the helm

Astronaut Michael Collins

Major General, U.S. Air Force Reserve (Retired)
Born October 31, 1930, Rome, Italy
Bachelor of Science, U.S. Military Academy

About the Man:

Mike Collins graduated from Saint Albans School in Washington, D.C. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from the US Military Academy at West Point, in 1952.

After graduating from West Point, Collins chose an Air Force career. He served as an experimental flight test officer at the Air Force Flight Test Center, at Edwards Air Force Base. While there, Collins tested performance, stability, and control characteristics of Air Force aircraft, mostly jet fighters.

Mike Collins was chosen by NASA with the third group of astronauts in October of 1963.

About the Spaceflights:

Gemini 10

July 18, 1966

Michael Collins served as pilot on the Gemini 10 mission. During the 3-day flight, Collins and fellow astronaut John Young performed a successful rendezvous and docking with an Agena target vehicle.

The crew of Gemini 10 maneuvered the Gemini spacecraft into another orbit for a rendezvous with a second, inactive Agena. Mike Collins' skillfully performed two extravehicular activities, EVA's. One EVA included recovering a micrometeorite detection experiment from the second Agena.

During this record-setting flight, the Gemini spacecraft reached an apogee of approximately 475 statute miles. The spacecraft and crew traveled a distance of 1,275,091 statute miles, orbitting the Earth a total of forty-three times. Gemini 10 splashed down on July 21, 1966.

Flight Duration: Two days, twenty-two hours, forty-six minutes, and thirty-nine seconds

On his next flight, Collins would orbit the Moon.

Apollo 11 (Four views of Apollo 11 launch)

July 16-24, 1969

The crew of the first manned lunar landing mission, Apollo 11, consisted of Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins. The three men worked long and hard in computerized simulators. They practiced what they were going to have to do to make the lunar landing. On Wednesday, July 16, 1969 at 9:32 a.m., Apollo 11 lifted off, en route to the Moon. A Saturn V rocket, a modified ballistic missile, boosted the spacecraft into Earth's orbit. After the rocket's third stage was restarted, the Apollo 11 spacecraft was propelled into its lunar path, heading for the far side of the Moon.

When nearing the Moon's vicinity, the spacecraft was maneuvered into position for a lunar orbit. A rocket in the Service Module, SM, was fired to bring the craft into a circular orbit, one hundred miles above the Moon's surface.

Then, Aldrin and Armstrong entered the Lunar Excursion Module, LEM, nicknamed Eagle, and detached from the Command Module, CM, nicknamed Columbia, while Collins remained in lunar orbit aboard the CM.

Apollo 11 landed on the Moon's surface at 4:18pm on the afternoon of July 20, 1969. Nearly seven hours later, Neil Armstrong became the first human being to set foot on alien soil. Buzz Aldrin followed him eighteen minutes later.

Aldrin and Armstrong spent two hours and twenty-one minutes in the alien environment. They took photographs and collected rock and soil samples. They also set up scientific experiments on the lunar surface. They also set the American Flag on the Moon.

Collins performed the final re-docking maneuvers following a successful lunar orbit rendezvous which was initiated by Armstrong and Aldrin from within the Eagle after their ascent from the lunar surface.

Flight Duration: Eight days, eighteen hours, and thirty-five minutes

Click on the patches to read more about Michael Collins' historic spaceflights:

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