On July 20, 1969, NASA‘s Apollo 11 arrived at the Moon and saw Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin take a “giant leap for mankind”. While the duo walked the Moon, Michael Collins, who was command module pilot, orbited the Moon in the spaceship which would eventually ferry them back to Earth. For around 47 minutes when the lunar module was behind the Moon, Mr Collins was undoubtedly the loneliest man in human history as he was cut off from all radio signal, leaving him alone with his thoughts.
During this time, Mr Collins, who has shunned the fame and limelight since the historic mission, wrote a diary entry, and in it revealed how he would have been a “marked man” for the rest of his days had Mr Armstrong and Dr Aldrin not managed to make it back to the lunar module.
Mr Collins, who privately estimated that the chances of survival were 50/50 for the men on the Moon, wrote about his solitude: “I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it.
“If a count were taken, the score would be three billion plus two over on the other side of the moon, and one plus God knows what on this side.”
He went on to write: “My secret terror for the last six months has been leaving them on the Moon and returning to Earth alone.
“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.”
Mr Collins is not the only high profile figure who was not confident of Mr Armstrong and Dr Aldrin’s return.
A speech penned by President Richard Nixon and speechwriter William Safire was prepared just in case Mr Collins had to leave the others behind.
The speech stated: “Fate has ordained that the men who went to the Moon to explore in peace will stay on the Moon to rest in peace.
“These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.
“These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.”
Thankfully, the mission was a resounding success and 50 years on, NASA is set to celebrate the historic achievement.
Now the space agency is looking to put humans on the Moon for the first time since 1972.
NASA has decided it has unfinished business on our lunar satellite and wants to set up a permanent base on the Moon, with the missions hopefully taking place in 2024.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine made the announcement that he wants to set up a lunar colony and called on “the best and brightest of American industry to help design and develop “human lunar landers”.
The base would be used as a checkpoint between Earth and Mars while also allowing astronauts to study the moon in close detail.