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on 24 September 2017
Collins says he came top in the astronaut candidates' tests verbal skills section. I can well believe it. He writes excellently. There is exactly the right balance of technical information, reflection and day to day detail. It really gives you an idea of what it was like to be in the amazing, unprecedented situation he found himself in.
I had to put the book down at times just to revel in it and enjoy the moments.
One thing which does come out of it is: what do you do with your life after it has reached such a unique, unrepeatable peak? He touches on this too. It's not surprising that all 3 astronauts never flew again.
Another thing is: the enormous influence that the astronauts had on the conduct of the entire enterprise. I get the feeling, from reading about later programs eg the space shuttle, that later on 'managers' and administrators started to take over, which coincided (?) with the devaluation and essentially fizzling out of the manned space programs.
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on 12 February 2018
I bought this book as I had heard that Michael Collins’ ‘Carrying the Fire’ was the best book available covering the Apollo missions to the moon and whilst I have nothing to compare it to, I can certainly believe the claim. Collins is an excellent writer and his book conveys the feelings of a humble and humorous individual who frankly has little to be humble about as like all Astronauts he had to be exceptional just to be selected as part of the 3rd Astronaut intake (having failed in his bid to be taken on in the 2nd – proving persistence is a virtue).
The book was written in 1974, Collins having retired from Nasa in January 1970, just a few months after Buzz Aldrin. I suppose there is not much challenge left to a man who had flown to the Moon though I had always felt it must have been disappointing for Collins to have gone all that way and not set foot on the surface. I now know different, Collins was offered further flights and it is likely he would have commanded Apollo 17 had he opted to remain with Nasa though this book reveals just how tough, in particular on the families of the Astronauts, and dangerous the job was. Today we look back on Apollo and tend to forget those Astronauts lost in flying accidents (most were test pilots and continued to fly during training) or on Apollo 1 and the near fatal Apollo 13 flight (I vividly remember following 13 at Primary school) perhaps we see it with rose-tinted hindsight. That the families, lacking hindsight, could not know that there would be no more losses until Challenger, along with the intense training regime with weeks spent in Florida whilst families were housed in Houston, brings the realisation that intense dedication for even these high flyers was required and it also shows why individual astronauts flew only a few missions each.
By the time he joined the Astronaut programme, Michael Collins had already ejected from an F86 and had been a test pilot with the USAF. Selected as an Astronaut, he details here the training programmes that were to prepare him for his 1st flight and Spacewalk aboard Gemini 10, itself a stepping stone to JFK’s challenge to the USA to set a man on the moon and return him safely to earth before the end of the 1960s. On the Gemini mission, John Young manoeuvred the capsule to rendezvous and dock with an Agena engine pre-placed in orbit and used it to boost them to a new height record. Collins describes the techniques of piloting the craft and the concerns during that flight of fuel burn, his sore knee – caused by the bends – and the spacewalk he completed before successful re-entry and pick up.
Moving on to Apollo was a whole new ball game and initially a tragic one as one of Collins’ first acts with the programme was to break the news of her husband’s death in the Apollo 1 capsule fire to Martha Chaffee. During 1968, Collins noticed that his legs were not working as they should, then as he walked down stairs, his knee would almost give way. His left leg also had unusual sensations when in hot and cold water. Reluctantly he sought medical advice and the diagnosis was a cervical disc herniation, requiring two vertebrae to be fused together. The surgery was followed by 3 months in a neck brace thus removing him from the crew of Apollo 9 but ironically paving the way for his participation in Apollo 11 as crews were juggled! Perhaps the most fortuitous injury in history.
The Apollo 11 mission record starts, appropriately, with Chapter 11 and takes from here until the end of the book. The training regimes, different for Collins who would remain on the Command Module and Armstrong and Aldrin who would take the LM, are detailed from here on as are minute details such as the design of the mission patch to big issues such as Collins noting on launch that Armstrong’s clothing was uncomfortably near the abort handle, to the landing of Eagle and Collin’s attempts to spot the LM whilst orbiting all are well told. As the 1st mission to land on the moon the 6-week quarantine period after landing is also recorded though Collins is suitably sceptical to its efficacy if they had been contaminated by moon bugs. The Apollo 11 mission is fascinating in the telling as well as the fact.
My edition of the book was the 2001 edition with a Foreword by Charles Lindbergh (yes that one). My only criticism of the book is that the quality of the photos was not great as they were printed on the same paper as the text rather than on photographic paper this is a shame as the Nasa has some superb colour shots of both Gemini 10 and Apollo 11. Having said that this doesn’t detract from the story. In addition to the text there are a number of tables comparing the different flights of each programme and sketch drawings throughout the book to explain some of the more technical concepts – though nothing here is hard to understand.
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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 20 January 2018
Never in a million years would I have thought this book would be so good that I had difficulty in putting it down. Interesting, fascinating, informative, sometimes funny, honest and written with eloquence and integrity. You actually feel you get to know the man and the astronaut. Cannot recommend it more highly, a fabulous read for anyone even remotely interested in space exploration. Loved it so much I didn't want to finish it. Will be reading it again in the future........... probably several times over!
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on 11 June 2018
Puns aside, I cannot praise this book too highly. In the space of a week, Michael Collins has gone from being little more than trivia quiz answer to me to becoming only a little less than a guru. I was gripped from the beginning and didn't want to turn the final page and finish it. Collins more than once expresses regret that philosophers and poets didn't get to fly to the moon, but he does himself a disservice: he is both. His easy writing style belies a blistering intelligence and a fascinating and complex personality. Utterly brilliant. (Follow it up with David Sington's film 'In the Shadow of the Moon' )
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on 8 April 2018
Very interesting explanation of what it was like to be an Astronaut, fly Gemini and fly Apollo to the moon and back. Mike Collins concentrates on the space program and has a good way with words. Very well put and always interesting. Gene Cernan's book is good too. The other moon men, well, not so good. If you want to know about alcoholism read Buzz Aldrin. I admire Buzz Aldrin's achievements but he should have stuck to the space stuff. I recommend Collins, and Cernan.
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on 11 March 2016
I dreamt of being an astronaut when I was younger and even applied to the program but my meagre grades and not studying a science subject stopped me early on so whenever there is a book written by an astronaut I am on the edge of my seat ready to read it. The first thing that comes across with the book is how much of a down to earth, pardon the pun, guy Michael Collins. He does not come across arrogant and seems a really great person to get to know. He puts in a lot of detail about his previous Gemini flight and the training, along with all the Apollo training and final mission. This book was very hard to put down and I was carrying it with me everywhere so when I had any chance to relax I would read his book. If you are interested in the Apollo 11 mission then this is an essential book for your collection.
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on 1 October 2016
Collins is showy but unpretentious, flamboyant but honest, and gives a unique perspective on Gemini and Apollo. The book basically breaks down into three sections, his development as a test pilot, Gemini 10 and the moon mission. The balance is excellent. The technical content is well judged too. The difficulties in the relationships between the Apollo 11 crew are described very plainly, and I would particularly recommend this if you have already read Buzz Aldrin's "Magnificent Deslolation". This book has a reputation for being the best-written astronaut biography, and it deserves it.
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on 11 February 2015
The most elegant and readable of the astronaut memoirs. Collins employed no ghost writer and the book benefits hugely. The writing is witty and thoughtful and you get the sense of a man proud of his achievements and slightly bewildered by the attention he continues to receive. Of special interest are the portraits of his fellow astronauts- the description of Buzz as a man who resents not being the first on the moon more than he appreciates being second gives you a good idea of the nature of the book. A must for anyone interested in manned space exploration and a highly recommended book for anyone with even a vague interest in the subject or the biography of a fine man.
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on 10 August 2016
An absolutely fantastic insight into the workings of NASA and the amazing skill and effort of the astronauts.
Very readable, funny and informative, with specific insights into the Gemini and Apollo flights, and the history of manned space exploration.
I would highly recommend this excellent book.
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