On July 20, 1969, during NASA’s iconic Apollo 11 mission, Michael Collins played a crucial role in putting the first two men – Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin – on the Moon. The former test pilot was dubbed “the loneliest man in the world” in the media after returning to Earth as he spent more than 21 hours alone in the Command Module, while the pair carried out their experiments on the lunar surface. As a team, their heroics would bring an end to the Space Race by completing US President John F. Kennedy’s goal of putting a man on the Moon by the end of the Sixties.
After touching back down on home turf, Collins took part in a tour with his colleagues to mark their achievement, which would see them reach all four corners of the globe, then in 1970, he retired from NASA – despite being a likely candidate to be the next man to walk on the Moon.
Speaking to the BBC in 2019, he said: “I went on to do other things, first I was assistant of state, later on, the director of the National Air and Space Museum.
“I think the personal ones at that time probably weighed more heavily on me than the professional ones.”
Collins explained how his lifestyle was becoming increasingly taxing on both him and his family and did not feel like he had let NASA down by leaving.
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The 89-year-old then went on to admit that he did have some regrets, but could not complain.
He continued: “Sure, I have some regrets, but my luck had endured and this was the time for it to end.
“When Gene Cernan, my good friend, stepped out on the lunar surface, did I feel a sense of mean, green envy? I may have thought that could have been me.
“But, I wasn’t green with envy or anything like that, it was not a strong feeling.