Carrying the Fire

An Astronaut’s Journeys

by Michael Collins

528 pages, ★★★★★
Finished on 9th of July, buy here.

July 1969. How could it have been accomplished over 50 years ago, to go to and land on the moon? This is arguably one of the best books about that. It’s a wild story, right from an inside man, as the author is the third guy next to Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. All three went off the earth for those 380,000 kilometers, but while Neil and Buzz landed and walked on the moon, Mike was the one keeping it tidy in the Command Module “Columbia” circling the moon and making sure the three would make it home safely.

The implications of this journey still puzzle me. I think it’s one of the greatest things that humankind has ever done, and it still shows how we can achieve so much more than we do if the goals are clear. 400,000 people were involved in the moon landing efforts of the 1960s, building the spacecraft, calculating trajectories, sewing the suits, what have you. Imagine how fast we could battle the climate crisis if we had a common vision like this.

This book details Collins’ journey from test pilot to astronaut school to his first space walk in Gemini 10, with the last quarter of it devoted to Apollo 11 and the actual moon landing. It’s eloquently written, full of 1960s humor, and shows a good deal of how the times were like. The most interesting part for me is, how you bounce back to real life after accomplishing the first moon landing. Armstrong went on to teach engineering, Aldrin famously became a depressed alcoholic, and Collins curated the Air and Space Museum in D.C. before retiring in Florida – painting and fishing.

He shared some insights, for example that his interest in ecology sparked when seeing the fragile tiny earth out of his window. He saw humankind as one unit for the first time. On the other hand, he wanted those dirty nature-loving hippies to cut their hair and the Vietnam war to go on. This just shows that it’s never that simple.

An exceptional book about an exceptional chapter of history.

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