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Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journey (1974)

av Michael Collins

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
5991430,692 (4.36)43
The years that have passed since Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins piloted the Apollo 11 spacecraft to the moon in July 1969 have done nothing to alter the fundamental wonder of the event: man reaching the moon remains one of the great events--technical and spiritual--of our lifetime. InCarrying the Fire, Michael Collins conveys, in a very personal way, the drama, beauty, and humor of that adventure. He also traces his development from his first flight experiences in the air force, through his days as a test pilot, to his Apollo 11 space walk, presenting an evocative picture of the joys of flight as well as a new perspective on time, light, and movement from someone who has seen the fragile Earth from the other side of the moon.… (mer)
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https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/3725966.html

A few years back I found a list of the best books about spaceflight by astronauts, and this was firmly at the top of the list. It took me a while to actually get around to reading it, but it really is very very good. Collins, who died aged 90 just a few weeks ago, was of course the Command Module Pilot who remained orbiting the Moon while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on it, and because he was on the far side at the time he was probably the only person in the space programme who did not hear Armstrong's first steps live, even though he was closer to the scene than anyone else. But in a sense that's not the point; the point of the book is how Collins, a modest chap who seems aware of his own deficiencies, became part of one of the most audacious technological projects in history.

It's really interesting to see learn how deeply the astronauts themselves were involved in crucial design decisions. Every crew was assigned their modules from quite an early stage, so when they took them into space they would not only be familiar with them, they would actually be using equipment that they themselves had helped to build. And Collins was horribly aware of what could go wrong; orbiting the Moon, he is deeply conscious that he might be going home alone, leaving two colleagues dead or dying on an alien surface. But they make it back.

"The first one through is Buzz, with a big smile on his face. I grab his head, a hand on each temple, and am about to give him a smooch on the forehead, as a parent might greet an errant child; but then, embarrassed, I think better of it and grab his hand, and then Neil’s."

Collins also had some other interesting contributions apart from the flight itself. It was he who actually designed the mission insignia for Apollo 11, the eagle, the olive branch, and the unusual absence of the names of the astronauts, to emphasise the "for all mankind" aspect. He decided at quite an early stage that the firs moon landing would be his last (and second) space flight, went on to do a not terribly happy term at the State Department, and then had a very large hand in setting up the National Air and Space Museum in Washington.

The book is also really really funny in places. His description of the Air Force survival manual had me crying with laughter.

"The manual opens on a cheery note: “Anything that creeps, crawls, swims, or flies is a possible source of food.” Then it gets a bit too specific for my taste. “People eat grasshoppers, hairless caterpillars, wood-boring beetle larvae and pupae, ant eggs, and termites.” Not me, babe! Oh yeah? Read on. “You have probably eaten insects as contaminants in flour, corn meal, rice, beans, fruits, and greens of your daily food, and in stores in general.” No wonder the supermarket has been less crowded lately."

And on the best fitness regime for an astronaut:

"Under these circumstances, how should one prepare his body for space flight? Theories within the astronaut group ran the gamut. Bon vivant Wally Schirra allowed as how the best way to prepare for a restful experience was to rest. Mathematician Neil Armstrong suggested that a person was given only a finite number of heartbeats in this life, and he was not going to hasten his demise by asking his heart to speed up during exercise. In the opposite corner were the jocks, chief among them Ed White, who might begin a typical day by joyfully running three miles and end it with half a dozen games of squash and handball. In between, inconspicuous under the dome of the bell-shaped curve, cowered the majority."

That "cowered" is magnificent, isn't it!

"It was true that as July 18 [his first launch in 1966] drew closer, my thoughts were more and more preoccupied with the flight, but naturally my placid, even temper prevailed, and I recall thinking how grand it was to be able to share my upcoming experience with my family with such composure, equanimity, and good humor. Harking back to this same period, Pat [his wife] says I resented interruptions and was preoccupied, distracted, and totally irritable! God bless her, she waited a couple of years to tell me this[.]"

His wife and family were clearly a key element of keeping him emotionally and psychologically grounded, and it's maybe worth noting that he was the only one of the Apollo 11 crew whose marriage survived the Moon. (There is another hilarious passage when, visiting France, he and Pat are compelled to re-enact their own wedding ceremony in the village where they had originally got hitched several years before.)

Anyway, this was a great read, even if you don't care about spaceflight as much as I do. You can get it here. ( )
  nwhyte | Aug 27, 2021 |
NASA astronaut Michael Collins trained as an experimental test pilot before venturing into space as a vital member of the Gemini 10 and Apollo 11 missions. In Carrying the Fire, his account of his voyages into space and the years of training that led up to them, Collins reveals the human tensions, the physical realities, and the personal emotions surrounding the early years of the space race. Collins provides readers with an insider's view of the space program and conveys the excitement and wonder of his journey to the moon. As skilled at writing as he is at piloting a spacecraft, Collins explains the clash of personalities at NASA and technical aspects of flight with clear, engaging prose, withholding nothing in his candid assessments of fellow astronauts Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, and Buzz Aldrin, and officials within NASA. A fascinating memoir of mankind's greatest journey told in familiar, human terms, Carrying the Fire is by turns thrilling, humorous, and thought-provoking, a unique work by a remarkable man.
  MasseyLibrary | Apr 22, 2021 |
Author Michael Collins was the command module pilot who orbited the Moon as Armstrong and Aldrin made their historic landing. This memoir covers Collins' early experiences in the NASA astronaut program, including his Gemini 10 flight, and his decision to leave the space program after the success of Apollo 11.

As expected, it covers Collins' two spaceflight missions in detail, and provides copious information about the general training undergone by the astronaut corps, mentions a few internecine feuds in passing, and discusses the difficult transitions the author and other Apollo crewmen faced when returning from their missions.

Collins does write well, but the overall pace of the book drags a bit, and the ending just sort of dribbles off into a series of "then I took this job" mentions.

Definitely worth reading for those interested in the U.S. space program, but not necessarily the best book out there on the topic. ( )
  LyndaInOregon | Apr 3, 2021 |
Great fun and exciting. I actually got vertigo during his description of the his first space walk. A little tedious early on but that passed quickly and it was a kick to revisit what I lived through and took for granted a bit, back then. Some anachronisms and less than PC items, mostly around male/female roles but it is 40 years since he wrote it and they are not severe comments. Felt big at first, went quickly. ( )
  shaundeane | Sep 13, 2020 |
This book isn't an easy holiday read. However, if you have always wanted to know what the early astronauts did and what was the Apollo program in more depth, this is the book for you - and told from the human perspective of one of the key astronauts; Michael Collins.

The difficulty the book faces in delivering the above is that to discuss how the early test pilots got into the then new field of being astronauts, and how the Mercury program fed into Gemini and then Apollo, and how Apollo 1 to Apollo 11 played out requires quite a bit of detail and a large degree of science as well.

Overall this book is for those who are keen on the topic of space travel and they will get satisfaction from this book, as it will fill in some of the gaps in their knowledge, as well as allow them to re-live the experience of 1969. However, some effort will be required on the reader to achieve this outcome; this book follows the old axiom "you only get out what you put in". ( )
  Daniel_M_Oz | Apr 3, 2020 |
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The years that have passed since Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins piloted the Apollo 11 spacecraft to the moon in July 1969 have done nothing to alter the fundamental wonder of the event: man reaching the moon remains one of the great events--technical and spiritual--of our lifetime. InCarrying the Fire, Michael Collins conveys, in a very personal way, the drama, beauty, and humor of that adventure. He also traces his development from his first flight experiences in the air force, through his days as a test pilot, to his Apollo 11 space walk, presenting an evocative picture of the joys of flight as well as a new perspective on time, light, and movement from someone who has seen the fragile Earth from the other side of the moon.

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