• SENSEX
    NIFTY 50
Technology

Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins returns to launch pad 50 years later

Updated : 2019-07-17 07:53:42

Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins returned Tuesday to the exact spot where he flew to the moon 50 years ago with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Collins had the spotlight to himself this time — Armstrong has been gone for seven years and Aldrin canceled. Collins said he wished his two moonwalking colleagues could have shared the moment at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A, the departure point for humanity's first moon landing. "Wonderful feeling to be back," the 88-year-old command module pilot said on NASA TV. "There's a difference this time. I want to turn and ask Neil a question and maybe tell Buzz Aldrin something, and of course, I'm here by myself." At NASA's invitation, Collins marked the precise moment — 9:32 a.m. on July 16, 1969 — that the Saturn V rocket blasted off. He was seated at the base of the pad alongside Kennedy's director, Robert Cabana, a former space shuttle commander. Collins recalled the tension surrounding the crew that day. "Apollo 11 ... was serious business. We, crew, felt the weight of the world on our shoulders. We knew that everyone would be looking at us, friend or foe, and we wanted to do the best we possibly could," he said. Collins remained in lunar orbit, tending to Columbia, the mother ship, while Armstrong and Aldrin landed in the Eagle on July 20, 1969, and spent 2 ½ hours walking the gray, dusty lunar surface. A reunion Tuesday at the Kennedy firing room by past and present launch controllers — and Collins' return to the pad, now leased to SpaceX — kicked off a week of celebrations marking each day of Apollo 11's eight-day voyage.

Model rockets are launched at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., on Tuesday, July 16, 2019, on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 liftoff. Organizers are attempting to break a Guinness World Record by launching 5,000 simultaneously. (Joe Songer/The Huntsville Times - AL.com via AP)
Model rockets are launched at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., on Tuesday, July 16, 2019, on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 liftoff. Organizers are attempting to break a Guinness World Record by launching 5,000 simultaneously. (Joe Songer/The Huntsville Times - AL.com via AP)
Apollo Legends attend a news conference from left, Gerry Griffin, Apollo flight director, and Charlie Duke, Apollo 16 astronaut, take their seats as Mike Collins, Apollo 11 astronaut admires Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart's socks featuring a Saturn V rocket, during a news conference Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in Cocoa Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Apollo Legends attend a news conference from left, Gerry Griffin, Apollo flight director, and Charlie Duke, Apollo 16 astronaut, take their seats as Mike Collins, Apollo 11 astronaut admires Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart's socks featuring a Saturn V rocket, during a news conference Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in Cocoa Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Apollo 11 astronaut Mike Collins, left, makes comments as Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart listens during a news conference Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in Cocoa Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Apollo 11 astronaut Mike Collins, left, makes comments as Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart listens during a news conference Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in Cocoa Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Apollo 11 astronaut Mike Collins, answers questions during a news conference Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in Cocoa Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Apollo 11 astronaut Mike Collins, answers questions during a news conference Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in Cocoa Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
From right, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin walk to the van that will take the crew to the launchpad at Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida. July 16, 1969. (AP Photo/File)
From right, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin walk to the van that will take the crew to the launchpad at Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida. July 16, 1969. (AP Photo/File)
The crew of the Apollo 11, from left, Neil Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, module pilot; Edwin E.
The crew of the Apollo 11, from left, Neil Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, module pilot; Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, lunar module pilot. Apollo 11 was the first manned mission to the surface of the moon. March 30, 1969. (NASA via AP)
Apollo 11 astronauts, from left, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong stand in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, on the 40th anniversary of the mission's moon landing. July 20, 2009. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Apollo 11 astronauts, from left, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong stand in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, on the 40th anniversary of the mission's moon landing. July 20, 2009. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The full moon rises behind the Statue of Liberty at sunset in New York City, Monday, July 15, 2019, on the night before the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon launch. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
The full moon rises behind the Statue of Liberty at sunset in New York City, Monday, July 15, 2019, on the night before the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon launch. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
From left, Rick Armstrong, the son of Neil Armstrong, Vice President Mike Pence, and Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Director Ellen Stofan, unveil Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
From left, Rick Armstrong, the son of Neil Armstrong, Vice President Mike Pence, and Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Director Ellen Stofan, unveil Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit is unveiled at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit is unveiled at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit is unveiled at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit is unveiled at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Astronaut Michael Collins, right, speaks to Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana at Launch Complex 39A, about the moments leading up to launch at 9:32 a.m. on July 16, 1969, and what it was like to be part of the first mission to land on the moon. Collins was orbiting in the Command Module, while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went to the surface in the Lunar Module. July 16, 2019. (Frank Michaux/NASA via AP)
Astronaut Michael Collins, right, speaks to Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana at Launch Complex 39A, about the moments leading up to launch at 9:32 a.m. on July 16, 1969, and what it was like to be part of the first mission to land on the moon. Collins was orbiting in the Command Module, while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went to the surface in the Lunar Module. July 16, 2019. (Frank Michaux/NASA via AP)
Rafiel Santos and Silvia Freddo, and their two children Jose Eduardo, 11, right, and Gustavo, 6, bottom, of Santa Catarina, Brazil, take a selfie as some of the first visitors to view Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit after it is unveiled at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Rafiel Santos and Silvia Freddo, and their two children Jose Eduardo, 11, right, and Gustavo, 6, bottom, of Santa Catarina, Brazil, take a selfie as some of the first visitors to view Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit after it is unveiled at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Jack Heely, 5, of Alexandria, Va., wears a toy space helmet as he arrives as one of the first visitors to view Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit, background, after it is unveiled at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Jack Heely, 5, of Alexandria, Va., wears a toy space helmet as he arrives as one of the first visitors to view Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit, background, after it is unveiled at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Live TV

Ask Our Experts CNBC TV18