More than 50 years ago, on July 20, 1996, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first two men to walk on the lunar surface during NASA’s iconic Apollo 11 mission. Meanwhile, Michael Collins spent more than 21 hours alone in the Command Module, while the pair carried out their experiments on the lunar surface. As a trio, they would bring an end to the Space Race with the Soviet Union by completing US President John F. Kennedy’s goal of putting a man on the Moon by the end of the Sixties.
After returning back to Earth, Collins took part in an around-the-world tour with his colleagues to celebrate their achievements, but following that, in 1970, he retired from NASA – despite being a likely candidate to be the next man to walk on the Moon.
The legendary astronaut, now 89, told the BBC in 2019: “I bailed out of the space programme before Apollo was over, I felt that the first lunar landing had fundamentally done what John F. Kennedy had asked us to do.
“I went on to do other things, first I was assistant of state, later on, the director of the National Air and Space Museum.
“There’s a whole host of reasons why I walked away from Apollo, some of them professional, some of them personal.
“I think the personal ones at that time probably weighed more heavily on me than the professional ones.”
Collins went on to detail that his lifestyle was becoming increasingly taxing on both him and his family.
He added: “My wife, Pat, had put up with my ridiculous career being a jet fighter pilot, a test pilot and this looney astronaut thing.
“That required long hours, a lot of time away from home and during that time away you were stuffed into a simulator.
Great Big Lockdown Survey: Tell us what life’s like for you by answering THESE questions