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Apollo 11's Michael Collins Interviews Himself

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Michael Collins, the man who orbited the moon while Neil and Buzz had all the fun, isn't doing any interviews, apparently, for the 40th anniversary. But through NASA he's put out a Q&A with himself answering what he says are the biggest FAQs he gets.

Most of it is predictable, and in fact many answers quote extensively from his (very good) book Carrying the Fire.

But he does cut loose a bit. At one point, ranting about celebrity culture in America, he says:

Celebrities? What nonsense, what an empty concept for a person to be, as my friend the great historian Daniel Boorstin put it, "known for his well-known-ness." How many live-ins, how many trips to rehab, maybe -- wow -- you could even get arrested and then you would really be noticed. Don't get me started.

"Live-ins"? Are they still having those?

There are some other highlights.

Q. You are starting to sound a little grumpy. Are you grumpy?
A. At age 78, yes, in many ways. Some things about current society irritate me, such as the adulation of celebrities and the inflation of heroism.

Q. But aren't you both?
A. Not me. Neither.

Heroes abound, and should be revered as such, but don't count astronauts among them. We work very hard; we did our jobs to near perfection, but that was what we had hired on to do. In no way did we meet the criterion of the Congressional Medal of Honor: 'above and
beyond the call of duty.'...

Q. So, if I wanted to sum you up, I should say "grumpy?"
A. No, no, lucky! Usually, you find yourself either too young or too old to do what you really want, but consider: Neil Armstrong was born in 1930, Buzz Aldrin 1930, and Mike Collins 1930. We came along at exactly the right time. We survived hazardous careers and we were successful in them. But in my own case at least, it was 10 percent
shrewd planning and 90 percent blind luck. Put LUCKY on my tombstone.

As to what he's up to these days, it sounds like a pretty good life:

Q. I understand you have become a recluse.
A. I'm not sure that's the word. I think of the Brown Recluse, the deadliest of spiders, and I have a suntan, so perhaps. Anyway, it's true I've never enjoyed the spotlight, don't know why, maybe it ties in with the celebrity thing.

Q. So, how do you spend your time?
A. Running, biking, swimming, fishing, painting, cooking, reading, worrying about the stock market, searching for a really good bottle of cabernet under ten dollars. Moderately busy.

Q. No TV?
A. A few nature programs, and the Washington Redskins, that's about it.

He says there's a 40th-anniversary edition of Carrying the Fire that's being published; it's definitely worth checking out.

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