Meet Michael Collins
It's an edge of your seat thrill ride that will change oversee movies forever. The movies starts July seventh nine PM on CNN. Hello, and welcome to the second episode of Apollo eleven beyond the moon. I'm Brian Stelter, CNN's chief media correspondent and today we have a very special episode for him. We're going to take you inside the Apollo eleven mission with one of its astronauts, Michael Collins was born into a military family and attended West Point where he graduated into the advanced day fighter training, team analysis airforce base after several years of advanced flight training, Cowan's was selected by NASA to pilot for Gemini and Apollo programs Collins conducted his first spacewalk in nineteen sixty six with the Gemini ten spacecraft on this mission. He became the first person to meet another craft in orbit. But his most exciting mission took place, three years later on July. Sixteenth nineteen sixty nine Collins Buzz Aldrin, and Neil Armstrong launched into space their destination. Was the moon while Armstrong and Aldrin, walked on the moon Collins was left alone to pilot, the Apollo eleven command multiple for twenty one and a half hours. He circled the moon at times losing all contact with Michigan troll. We all know how this mission with an incredible success in historic first, but at the time, nobody knew what would happen Collins Armstrong, Aldrin. We're all taking an incredible risk. So I want to ask Collins about that as well as where he wants NASA to be going now beyond the mood. Thank you so much. I down with me. Well, thank you. It's a pleasure to be here. Honored fiftieth anniversary right around the corner. What does this mean to you? What does this occasion? This anniversary mean to you. Well, it's a time, I think to stop and think about where we are, and where we're going, and if the new year fifty is some magic, and bringing it tension to it will all a more power to it. I think it's a good time right now for space exploration, and it feels like a moment. Now that we're so many decades past most Americans alive today. Weren't alive for the moon landing. So maybe they're only now being able to watch an experience for the first time, it's amazing some cases. They're watching it on YouTube, you know, or we're on a big screen, you know, in ways it didn't exist, if two years. Yeah vicariously as they say, maybe that's better than actually being. I hope not. But it is a chance for people to understand. And what happened? Yes. Of course. Do you view it as a as a miracle in some ways that America was able to complete that task at the end of the of the decade as Kennedy dreamed, well, in a sense if you look at the very beginning, and then you look at the ending, perhaps it does have a miraculous touch? But if you go through it step by step mission by mission. It was a very carefully planned, and it was executed in little small increments. Little tiny bites of technology and everybody knows what your role was. But how do you describe it? How do you tell people about it? Oh, well, I was I was just thirteen guy on on Pol eleven. And, and I'm asked all sorts of questions, peripheral to that negative, but I have to say in all honesty for me was just a wonderful experience from beginning to end. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, we're wonderful, companions. I felt honored to join. Them the fact that I did not walk on the moon to me, was really kind of superficial I felt that I was a full third partner in the venture. And when, for example, I was behind the moon and not quite knowing what was going on. I was asked after the flight weren't, you, Charlie lonely than loan as man in this whole lonely mission in the lonely history of this lonely planet weren't you lonely? No, not at all. I was happy. I had I had hot coffee. I could turn thermostat up to seventy two degrees. I love my, my surroundings. E Apollo eleven command module, Columbia was a happy home for me and far from failing separated. I felt very much a part of what was going on. You say, sometimes people, people have a negative connotation of being the third guy. Is that what you're saying? I home not. No, no, no, no. If they do I'm trying to dispel that notion, Mattie I was in junior partner, but the partner absolutely. And that experience circling the moon for twenty one hours, twenty one hours. Right. I have no idea as the fifty years now I have at forty nine and a half, I think he'd probably awful little bit. You know, all of these hours circling, it was their fear, you know, because we, you know, you didn't know what the outcome would be the way that we all do today. I'm just trying to take myself back to what it would feel like not knowing what's going to happen next during this mission, you know, and I and drive down the highway and someone coming in the other way gets over in my lane. We pass one another hundred and twenty miles an hour, sixty plus sixty that is fear space flying is not that it's worry. However, we're is sort of a first cousin of fair because it's such a long and frazzle daisy chain. If you will of events from earth, moon and back those daisy chains are held together by links each little segment, each event, trying to get that Saturn five to put in orbit getting out of orbit getting on your way to the moon each one of those things is hazardous event in itself. An integral part of the daisy chain break. One of those little links, and everything down downhill from there, useless, so yes, it's a sense of awareness, a sense of worry, but fair in quite the same visceral. You know, have a visceral feeling of fair. No, I remember Armstrong had commented. At one point. He thought, maybe there was only a fifty fifty chance of this all succeeding. Did you feel similarly? Yeah. I don't recall those numbers being thrown around. But yeah, it sounds good to me. Fifty fifty but fifty fifty I have to clarify and say that, that means everything went. Well, we did everything. Exactly right. We came back with the moon rocks. We were supposed to have brought and so on now in terms of surviving the experience. I never put a number on that. But it'd been a lot higher than a lot more optimistic than fifty fifty. I don't know what it was. We never never say. Hey, what do you think your chances us arriving? Does your going to be tomorrow evening? Cocktail hour. So we just didn't work that way, so much unknown. But then so much confidence as well. That quiet confidence of just accomplishing everything in order one by one. There's a lesson there for generations, about composting huge goals us and getting through them step by step. Yes. Well, we were the right people at the right time. I guess, I always say Neal was born in nineteen thirty and Buzz Aldrin was born in one thousand nine thirty. Mike Collins was born in nineteen thirty. We just sort of wandered in it. Exactly the right time. Lana luck in a situation like that. I believe, do you ever wonder what would have happened where your life would have gone if you hadn't been one of the three? No, no. I was I had one of what I consider at the time to be the best job. I could possibly have, which was I was in the fighter test section experimental test pilot Edwards Air Force base. Hardly enough. We'll, maybe not so on. But when this base program came along people, some of the people in my bracket, their declined to go work for NASA. They said, well, they're all sorts of things. I don't wanna be a shot off like around amunition in one of these rocket things I wanna fly something with. Wings. I wanna fly something different every day. I wanna fly day after today, not just by maybe once every couple of years. So a lot of experimental test pilots space program with. Okay. But now they were in the minority, most of them were like I was we were enthralled by the notion of flying into space, higher faster often different places. So we were very pleased when NASA came along. And lo and behold, what were they looking for there happened to be looking for cusp violence hearing, you describe those years, it makes me wish there was a, an equivalent project today in America. Well, I think there is way out there. I call it Mars. I, I used to joke that after the flight of Apollo eleven NASA sent me to the wrong place. Actually, I thought NASA should be renamed, the National Aeronautics and Mars administration. And, and I bring that notion with me over the past fifty years, I'm still looking for Mars and I'm thinking it's getting closer and we're getting people like Jeff basis and and a mosque or thrown billions into the kitty to add to what's there from federal appropriations. And so, I think we're getting to the point where we have more of can-do as well as will do aspect of going to Mars. And that blazes me Lotte. I liked that idea. Do you think President Trump is realistic when he talks about his vision for going to Mars now I think his vision is going back to the Mon. I don't think he's too much aware of Mars. Maybe he didn't understand. There is a planet Mars. That's pretty as pretty strong. Oh. When we let me to double it or quadruple. No. I it is interesting that he's talked about wanting to go to the moon in six years. Right. Right along the time is second term would end if he's reelected. And it does seem that Nasr's vision for Mars is much further off. Is it a mistake to try to go back to the moon, I before focusing on Mars? I don't know. It's one way of doing business. That's not my favorite way of doing business. I prefer what I would call the John F Kennedy express method if we want to go to Mars, I think we should be clear, not be are not just national, but our international human target our next goal. I think going going back to the moon. I and filling in some of the gaps of our knowledge is an okay way of doing it. Neil Armstrong was a lot better engineer than I was he was not here when, when this notion of going back and having a, a gateway from the moon to Mars, a lot of experts are really. Thinking that, that's the way to go. I happen to register minority view and say, I think if we want to go to Mars, we should soda Claire, and go the same way president Kennedy described the forthcoming lunar landing. Right. Right. If Mars have been an option for you. What do you have wanted to go much further much more intense journey? Well, Mars round trip is like two years. If you count the planets out from the sun mercury Venus earth, Mars. Ooh, earth, and Mars right next to each other. Yeah, but it's hundreds of millions of miles so around trip to Mars is about a two year deal takes maybe nine months to get there. And when you get there, however, you can't turn around and go home, planets or not in the proper alignment, you have to wait maybe a year. So he he had all that together. It's a two year round trips. I'm makes a Apollo same kind of child's play. He doesn't it. Really, I would never call it that I would never call. I would never call somebody. That was so heroic for the country in the world child's play. Okay. But hey you've you've been you've been there. You've been able to talk about this and inspire people for decades and the name of our podcasts here. The Sears, we're doing is, is called beyond the moon because it is so, essential to give people that kind of inspired the title. Do you. Do you have a patent on it on think we do get one? I like that. Do you. We gotta keep talking about going beyond the mood think so able to learn from what you accomplished and take it further. I wonder if some of your family members came with today for this taping what do you share with them? What are the lessons that you've tried to impart from your time in Apollo with your own family and friends one would be goal setting I think in our everyday life. We sort of wander around at least I want around quite sure where I'm going, why. And I think it's, it's good to stop and. And contemplate once in a while where am I in my life? What is it I want to do a work and I go, how am I going to go about getting there? Once I remember saying to Houston. Hey, houston. Follow eleven I got the world in my window, and that was it. I know I can look out the window, and they're the tiny little globe. Well in a strange way, we all have or can have a world in our windows, maybe are maybe the world in our window. He's got nothing to do with space exploration, but whatever it is. We consider the stinky, little tiny planet, we live on it's our world. It's a world our window, and we look into our window, a we're doing the right things. So we taking care of the planet are we are we miss using it, and so on? So I think there are some tie-ins there. I've heard you say that when you're up there, looking at the earth from moving you're thinking about how fragile this planet is. I don't know why that is. You know, I grew up thinking that the earth was made out of rocks. And when I look back from join hundred forty thousand miles, you get the feeling. Well, there it is, is thing that I've been looking at I see the blue of the ocean and the white or the clouds, I see a streak of rust, we call continents, but his tiny little thing, and somehow it projects and almost gives off a aroma of. Fragility and I don't know why that is that reaction is totally unexpected to me and today I can't explain why it looks fragile. But if you examine terrestrial fragility, it's there. I mean, we are treating as or making it fragile in so many different respects. It's interesting to hear that you've had fifty years to reflect on that feeling and it's still something that maybe mystifies you a little bit and does. Yes. And does it does? Well, the planet earth is such a complex thing now and such disburse, attitudes of people who want this, and the other thing, done one of the amazing things about the Apollo program, specifically, Apollo eleven was that they put it this way at right after the fight. We were privileged to make around the world trip. I was flabbergasted I every where we. Went people said instead of oh, you Americans have done it. Now, they said we did it pay. We get we human being we human beings got together, despite a million different differences that we may have as individuals collectively nationally internationally. We all got together and said, we didn't we did this thing. And I can't think of another instance in which humankind has been more United on a specific project or specific attitude or specific venture than than that one. And that's all the more reason to go do it again. I'm born this time a little further. L sneak on by the moon and keep going to Mars. You've had fifty years to think about this, this next question. What shocked do most? What surprised you most about the mission itself that everything that everything worked, but everything works? It's a from here to the moon and back as a very fragile daisy chain of events. These events are held together by individual links. I think on site countered something like twenty nine of them avent's along the way you gotta get the rockets to work to get an orbit. Then you got to get out of orbit, then you're gonna be on the right path, and so on. Any break in a link that breaks the rest of the chain is useless. And I was keenly aware of that before we set out. And the fact that nothing bro, as complicated as it was all worked perfectly as advertise. That was the big surprise to me the documentary. Vers. Right. This must have been the most single challenging part for you. Well, yeah, probably was the lunar module eagle was. Nested inside the upper stage of the Saturn, five rocket. So when we were just past earth orbit, what I do is separate turn command module, Columbia around go back find with my prob- the drogue the target of Columbia and maneuver, very minute. Only very quietly close quarters where I mean, four or five inches makes a difference. Boom, grab it and then pull it out. So that was from pilots point of view. Probably the most complicated thing. I had to do, but there was a whole series checkpoints and problems, and so forth along the way and you must get Astle out of the same. Impressions again. And again about the pilot in about the maneuvers. I'm just curious what do people not ask about often enough? What part of hollow eleven that we might risk forgetting or leaving out of this story, the question in people. They might ask us why why do you go? What do you do this thing why in the first place and to me? Something I really cannot explain. Scientific or technical terms to me, it's a feeling an emotion to me. I go out and look up into the sky at night. Stars seems to me that I want to I but we people in general and want to know what is what to go to know to smell the seat understand to, to understand our, our universe understand our other parts of it to me. That's kind of a thing, it says. I don't wanna load with lead over my head. I want to remove that lead and be aware of what can possibly go on. And that's what you and your colleagues did. Yes, I think so I hope so. Thank you for sharing it with us. Well, thank you. Nice. Nice to be here with you. Thank you. It's amazing to hear about the mission from someone who was actually there. And now fifty years later to hear where you hope we are heading next. And thanks to all of you for tuning in, for Apollo eleven beyond the moon in our next episode. We're going to discuss the people who worked behind the scenes to make the Apollo eleven mission happen often for far too little credit, meet the women and the people of color during the space race. That's coming up now. The manhunt for the Golden State killer is over. And there's a suspect in custody. How did law enforcement finally idea him after searching for over forty years, who exactly is the suspect Joseph James the Angelo, how did he fly under the radar for decades? And what are some of the victims and their families saying about the arrest? I'm Biagio Messina and I'm joke Vinci's and those are some of the questions, we explore an all new episodes of unmasking killer. Subscribe now at apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.