Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins came back to the launch pad Tuesday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Facility in Florida where he traveled to the moon 50 years in the past along with the late Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. “Great feeling to be back at launch pad 39A,” Collins, the command module pilot for Apollo 11, stated in an interview on the pad with Kennedy Space Facility Director Bob Cabana, himself a veteran of four space shuttle launches and an ex shuttle commander.
In the iconic 1969 moon program, Collins, 88, stayed in lunar orbit whereas his crewmates Armstrong and Aldrin stepped foot on the lunar surface, an event that delighted Americans and marked a preeminent chapter in human spaceflight.
Collins referred to an often-quoted September 1962 speech by President John F. Kennedy declaring to put a man on the floor of the moon by the end of that decade.
“What Kennedy stated helped us a lot in our preparation for the first lunar touchdown,” Collins advised Cabana, seen on a Livestream from the launch pad, which has been repaired by Elon Musk’s SpaceX for future crewed programs under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
In another celebration of the historic launch, the spacesuit that Armstrong wore throughout the mission went on public display for the first time in 13 years at the Smithsonian’s Space and Air Museum in Washington.
NASA is intending to send astronauts back to the moon as soon as 2024 in an accelerated timeline set by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in a March speech to the National Space Council, the White House’s improved space policy panel. Collins said there was “quite a lot of merit” to the recent push for a lunar mission.