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on 20 June 2001
I've read every available account of project Apollo and I think this is by far the best. Collins is a natural story teller and there's little eveidence of a co-author spoiling the text. Collins self-affacing humour and modesty make this a delight to read. Not only was he a Gemini and Apollo pilot, but he was instrumental in the designing of the pressure suit used for space and moon walks and he gives interesting accounts of this (including the discovery of his own claustraphobia-not a most desireable attribute for an astronaut!). My only disappointment was that Collins retired after being CMP on Apollo 11. He deserved a Lunar Landing and his account would have been electrifying.
I also unreservedly recommend this book-the hardback is especially nice!
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on 6 May 2001
This is the most entertaining and illuminating account of man's early exploration of space that I have read. Collins tells the story in a witty and often poignant way and is not afraid to provide the reader with a 'warts and all' approach to some of the most momentous events of the 20th century. It will be of interest to both students of the subject as well as those who were not born when man first walked upon the moon. I recommend it without reservation.
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on 26 January 2000
Carrying The Fire is a personal story by the 'third man' of Apollo 11. Michael Collins is often sadly sidelined in many accounts of mankind's greatest adventure. But as command module pilot of Apollo 11 his job was the equal of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's.
Collin's is clearly a natural writer and his account of what it is like to be the only member of humanity to be totally alone is both informative and poignant. During the mission there was little time for him to reflect on the acheivement and significance of Apollo 11, but his retrospective view gives the reader a unique insight into the enormity of the undertaking. Collins' candid comments on his training and preparation for the mission show us at this thirty year remove, just how pioneering the whole of Project Apollo really was. These men were explorers as well as trained astronauts and Michael Collins was fully aware of this.
One particular passage stays in the memory - Collins knew that if anything went wrong on the lunar surface he had to be prepared to come back alone. As he says "I would have had to leave my crewmates to die on the Moon, whilst I flew home to safety. I would have been a marked man for the rest of my life"
As a long time fan of all thing 'spacey' I think Carrying The Fire is perhaps the most personal book I have read by any of the twenty four men who amazed and thrilled us all by journeying to the Moon.
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on 13 March 2006
The last book I read about the Apollo astronauts was the rather awful Rocketman (about Pete Conrad, commander of Apollo 12)so it was with a certain trepidation that I began this 500 page book. The first great advantage is that this has been written by Michael Collins himself and not by a Hollywood scriptwriter. His style is very accessible and you get a real feel for the man as he comes across as being tremendously self effacing and modest. He talks about his feelings and pulls no punches when talking about his colleagues, though he doesn't gossip he's merely honest. A most refreshing read which is highly recommended.
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on 29 April 2006
Michael Collins was probably atypical in the astronaut fratenity and that's reflected in this book. It's by far the best book I've read by an astronaut. Despite that fact that it was written over thirty years ago, it has a very modern and candid feel to it and Collins demonstrates a level of self-awareness not visibly shared by many of his peers.

The level of technical detail given is just right and he gives a very good impression of the high workload and preoccupations of crews as they approached a flight. The level of risk and fragility of the whole Apollo programme is also conveyed.

It's a shame for all that Collins didn't walk on the moon!
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on 7 August 2014
I don't think I've ever had much interest in reading an autobiography before, but this book I really, really enjoyed. I found myself constantly telling my friends things I'd learnt from this book like "Did you know that astronauts get very dehydrated in space.. it's because.." or "did you know that when in space, they make their ship rotate very slowly so that neither side gets too hot in the sun?.. yep, just like a spit roast!". I think I will definitely read another astronaut autobiography, but I doubt anyone's will match this.

If you're interested in NASA's early days and space exploration in general, you should definitely read this book, because Collins makes it very clear how the space program worked, and how it was planned-out. He gives lots of technical detail on space flight in general: enough to keep a physicist happy (myself) but not too much to alienate a layman.

The book starts off describing his air force career, and how he tries very hard to become a test pilot. He then explains his career as a test pilot. He then explains his reactions to NASA announcing that they are hiring, and describes the application process (and his second). When he finally becomes an astronaut, he begins talking in more detail about technical and personal things. He talks mainly about the two flights which he flew: Gemini 10 (jam-packed with experiments, but mainly concluded that the Van Allen belt wasn't as radioactive as once thought) and Apollo 11 (the flight to land on the moon).

After coming away from this book, I feel like I understand and admire Collins. I was quite surprised by how little Collins talks of his wife and children, and how little he talks of politics (he says he was kind of oblivious to what was going on in the real world).. but it seems that at the time, he just very focussed on his work, and he says that when he was preparing for Apollo 11 he knew it would be his final flight whether they landed on the moon or not, simply because he'd burnt himself out and he felt like it was only downhill from here. Whilst Collins will come across as a bit sexist (the astronauts seem to like pin-up girls), he also comes across as a very reasonable person: he always tries to see a dispute from both sides, and there are very few things he complains about without saying that he realised why the person was acting like that (with the exception of medics). He says he hated being hounded by journalists and autograph-seekers, but confesses that american citizens pay his salary, so they have a right. I also really admire that after Apollo 11, the three astronauts refused to make a lot of money by selling-out, and switched to other career paths instead.

I like Collins' philosophy that the human is a machine, and if machines aren't regularly fired-up, used and maintained, they rust and people forget how to drive them properly. It makes me remember when I've been more active (mentally and physically) that I felt much more 'alive' than I do now. I realise I've been running at 5% capacity, when I could be running at 15%.
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on 23 May 2016
I’m from an aviation background and have had professional interface with fast-jet, test flying & spaceflight operations. I have met pilots, astronauts and cosmonauts. My knowledge of this industry is well above average. Nevertheless, Michael Collins satisfactorily achieves his objectives, by writing a book that the layman will understand completely and thoroughly enjoy. His test flying and astronaut career are comprehensively covered in a very skilled written style. I have read a few titles on the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo programmes and this one easily gets the gold medal. After reading Carrying The Fire, I feel I was right there, right on his shoulder and now have no need to read any other books on this cutting edge space exploration era. A fantastic read and the book takes an honoured place in my library. Highly recommended.
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on 8 July 2006
I first read this in 1976 and a lot of it went over my head. Now coming back to it after 30 years I find it without doubt the best astronaut autobiography around. As others have said, his articulate writing, his ability to render complex technology and science readable, and, most of all, his self-effacing wit and humour make this the best book on being an astronaut that you can buy.
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on 6 February 2012
I am fascinated by the whole Apollo program. It is hard to sometimes to break away from the test pilot, jet jock who becomes a space man. This book gives us Collins as a man. Yes the importance of all the hardware is still there but it does not get in the way of understanding the man. On one occasion he is asked to test a new arrest mechanism for jets. He fires up the jet - heads down the runway at the specified speed (test pilot attention to detail) and then heads off into the desert in a cloud of dust - the arrest wire did not engage! Why? He forgot to drop the hook! Classic. He is also very frank about the other astronauts in the programme - he even apologises when he has something negative to say. Collins a man grounded and comfortable in his own shoes. A great read.
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I've read pretty much all the Apollo and Mercury astronaut books, along with many other 60s NASA books, and this sticks out as being probably the best balance of readability and technical detail yet from the astronaut's perspective. My all-time favourite NASA book is Gene Kranz's, but this is a good second best.

Not surprisingly, especially given his contemporaries, Collins is another super-skilled over-achiever, but he never comes across as conceited or unlikeable. At the end of the book, when he quotes one of his thank-you speeches, where he says that many thousands of workers were responsible for helping him become one the famous three, it reminds you that of the 400,000 people involved in the mission, he was one of the three chosen for immortality.

The book has a lot of Gemini detail I wasn't aware of, which was interesting, and gives a flavour of the vast amount of work, travel and effort that Collins and the others made over many years to get them to the moon. Looking back over 40 years later, it's virtually impossible to imagine that all this was going on only 20 or so years after the end of the second world war.

Written in 1974 or so, at the age of 43, Collins talks of his hopes that man will land on Mars in his lifetime, which gives a sense of what seemed achievable in those now far-off days.

An excellent book, which gives a unique perspective from the loneliest man in the world.
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