Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More Collins

"Apollo 11, Apollo 11, good morning from the Black Team."
Could they be talking to me? It takes me twenty seconds to fumble for the microphone button and answer groggily, I guess I have only been asleep five hours or so; I had a tough time getting to sleep, and now I'm having trouble waking up. Neil, Buzz, and I all putter about fixing breakfast and getting various items ready for transfer into the LM. [Later] I stuff Neil and Buzz into the LM along with an armload of equipment. Now I have to do the tunnel bit again, closing hatches, installing drogue and probe, and disconnecting the electrical umbilical. I am on the radio constantly now, running through an elaborate series of joint checks with Eagle.
I check progress with Buzz: "I have five minutes and fifteen seconds since we started. Attitude is holding very well."
"Roger, Mike, just hold it a little bit longer."
"No sweat, I can hold it all day. Take your sweet time. How's the czar over there? He's so quiet."
Neil chimes in, "Just hanging on- and punching."
Punching those computer buttons, I guess he means.
"All I can say is, beware the revolution," and then, getting no answer, I formally bid them goodbye. "You cats take it easy on the lunar surface...."
"O.K., Mike," Buzz answers cheerily, and I throw the switch which releases them. With my nose against the window and the movie camera churning away, I watch them go. When they are safely clear of me, I inform Neil, and he begins a slow pirouette in place, allowing me a look at his outlandish machine and its four extended legs.
"The Eagle has wings'" Neil exults. It doesn't look like any eagle I have ever seen. It is the weirdest-looking contraption ever to invade the sky, floating there with its legs awkwardly jutting out above a body which has neither symmetry nor grace. I make sure all four landing gears are down and locked, report that fact, and then lie a little.
"I think you've got a fine-looking flying machine there, Eagle, despite the fact you're upside down."
"Somebody's upside down," Neil retorts.
"O.K., Eagle. One minute . . . you guys take care."
Neil answers, "See you later." I hope so.
When the one minute is up, I fire my thrusters precisely as planned and we begin to separate, checking distances and velocities as we go. This burn is a very small one, just to give Eagle some breathing room. From now on it's up to them, and they will make two separate burns in reaching the lunar surface. The first one will serve to drop Eagle's perilune to fifty thousand feet. Then, when they reach this spot over the eastern edge of the Sea of Tranquility, Eagle's descent engine will be fired up for the second and last time, and Eagle will lazily arc over into a 12-minute computer- controlled descent to some point at which Neil will take over for a manual landing.
-Michael Collins

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