the Fire by Michael Collins, with a foreword by Charles A.
If you run across a copy of Carrying the Fire, buy
it. Many of my friends have read and thoroughly enjoyed
it, some of them even passing them on to their spouses who were also
pleased. I feel so strongly about its appeal that I could leave my
recommendation with only these statements.
You will, however,
inevitably ask, "But what is it about?"
Carrying the Fire is the true story of Apollo 11 as told by
the one astronaut on the mission that did not step on the
moon. Michael Collins starts the story with his days as a military
test pilot in the early 1960s. He then applies to become an astronaut
and quickly reveals the odd and funny road to joining NASA.
In one of my favorite moments in the book, Collins and other would-be astronauts
are taken to a morgue for reasons strange and unknown even to the
author. They witness the "dissection" of an old woman - a
victim of peritonitis - and
Collins realizes that he has no idea whether or not he should even become
an astronaut. Collins writes,
Was this supposed to make us at home with death on earth, in case we
had to cope with death in space? Or were we really supposed to
learn something here, from the awful obscene jumbled pile of poor old
lady parts in front of us? Peritonitis is no way to go, baby,
that's all I learned.
Rejected after his first application, he was finally selected with
the third group of astronauts in 1963. With this he switches to the life of a newby astronaut. His witty and
honest look at life continues through training. Studying geology in the
Grand Canyon, he admits that rock throwing contests are more fun than
Everything changes when he's selected as the pilot of his first
spaceflight, Gemini 10. No longer a rookie astronaut, he conducts
a spacewalk and shares a space altitude record with his mission
commander, fellow astronaut John Young.
Two years later, thanks to an unforeseen back surgery that
bumped him off Apollo 8, NASA's gruff chief astronaut assigned Collins
to Apollo 11. He didn't get to land on the moon but he was closer than
anyone else except Armstrong and Aldrin.
Carrying the Fire is unique not only for its endless humor but
for Michael Collins' casual observations of everyday events as
well as earth-shattering historic occasions. Recalling the hectic
days before his first spaceflight on Gemini 10, Collins tries to
maintain a sense of normalcy.
Sunday was a day for relaxation with Pat and the kids, a day for
balancing the checkbook and pruning roses and cooking exotic dishes
(frequently disasters) and turning the garden hose on the
dog...Harking back to this same period, Pat says I resented
interruptions and was preoccupied, distracted, and totally
irritable! God bless her, she waited a couple of years to tell
Collins also easily mixes the excitement of spaceflight with the many
varied and truly larger-than-life personalities of
the Apollo program. While Armstrong and Aldrin will be famous for many
years, Collins also paints insightful portraits of chief astronaut Deke
Slayton, the boundless Pete Conrad, easygoing John Young, and many
Carrying the Fire is written with unusual modesty for an
astronaut's biography. One gets the feeling that Collins feels fortunate
just to have been a part of flying to the moon. In turn, we're fortunate he wrote
about his experiences.
a little extra...
In a small way, Carrying the Fire provided the
spark for ideas and events.com. In the final chapter Collins
provides some observations about the men he flew with in space. He
writes, "All of us tend to communicate at a shallow level about
technical things, and about events rather than ideas."
in our case both ideas and events matter. Read more about our
origins in About Us.