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17 Things You Didn't Know About Astronaut Michael Collins

Updated April 28, 2021 79.7k views17 items

Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins was one of those American heroes whose name you never remember. He was on the first moon landing mission, but Collins was actually most famous for what he didn't do: He never walked on the moon. He flew 250,000 miles to the moon on Apollo 11 but never set foot on the satellite. On July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the Eagle on the lunar surface, the third member of their crew, Collins, was all alone, orbiting the moon in the Columbia, their command module.

He was part of the most famous space mission of all time, and a crucial part of one of humanity's most monumental achievements, yet most Americans don't know who Michael Collins was. This list is full of trivia and facts about Collins, all of which are reminders of just how unstoppably awesome Collins was and always will be.

This list is jam-packed with surprising information that will make you rethink a guy you've probably never given enough thought. Most people imagine Collins was bitter about not traipsing on the moon, but did you know that he actually turned down the chance to explore the lunar surface on a later Apollo mission? Or that he was one of the driving forces behind the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum, one of the single most popular museums in the world?

Michael Collins, who passed April 28, 2021, at age 90, may be remembered forever as the Apollo 11 astronaut who got the short end of the stick, but he was so much more than that, and this list proves it. Read on for trivia about the space explorer, pilot, and all-American guy who was so cool he didn't even need to walk on the moon.

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  • He Was Really Worried About Returning Alone

    While he orbited the moon alone in the command module, Michael Collins knew that he'd live in notoriety if Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin didn't survive the trip.

    "My secret terror for the last six months has been leaving them on the moon and returning to Earth alone, " he wrote later in Carrying the Fire. "If they fail to rise from the surface, or crash back into it, I am not going to commit suicide; I am coming home, forthwith, but I will be a marked man for life and I know it."

  • He Was The Only Person Alive Not Pictured In A Famous Image

    Collins took this photo of the Eagle as it ascended from the moon to rendezvous with him on the command module Columbia.

    His fellow astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were aboard the lunar module in the foreground, with about 4 billion people behind them on Earth, in the background.

  • Collins Was The First Person To Spacewalk More Than Once On A Single Spaceflight

    On the Gemini 10 mission in 1966, he and command pilot John Young spent just under three days orbiting Earth in the cramped Gemini capsule.

    Collins stretched his legs a bit for a total of just under an hour and a half, split between two separate EVAs (extra-vehicular activity), making him the first spaceman to take two spacewalks during a mission.

  • Photo: NASA, scan by J.L Pickering / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Collins Turned Down The Opportunity To Walk On The Moon

    While Michael Collins was training for Apollo 11, NASA's Coordinator of Astronaut Activities offered him the opportunity to command a later Apollo mission, which would've allowed him to walk on the moon rather than just orbit it.

    He declined because, as Andrew Chaikin details in his book A Man on the Moon, Collins had already decided Apollo 11 would be his last trip into space.