Even astronauts have really bad flights sometimes, and retired Air Force Major General Michael Collins, who flew the legendary Apollo 11 mission to the moon and died on Wednesday at the age of 90, is no exception. In fact, Collins said the worst four hours of his life came one day in 1962 while he was co-pilot on board a B-52 for a friend who was performing a test flight on the then-new strategic bomber. .
What made the flight so terrible was not the flight, nor the turbulence, nor the upset stomach. It was the fact that Collins had given up smoking a cold turkey the day before. He used to smoke two cans a day, Collins wrote in his autobiography. Carrying Fire: Astronaut’s Travels.
“One Sunday in the spring of 1
I barked at Pat [his wife, Patricia Finnegan]”Okay, damn it, when this box of cigarettes runs out, that’s it!” Collins said.
The decision marks a major turning point in the life of the Air Force pilot. Collins enjoyed smoking “extremely, albeit less and less each year,” as cigarette smoking was increasingly linked to lung cancer, he wrote. “Self-inflicted cancer – what obscenity!”
Quitting cigarettes turned out to be “the most difficult but satisfying stage for me,” Collins wrote. But boy was it hard. He ran quickly through the last pack of cigarettes, “and by evening I was empty-handed, capricious, angry, and determined.”
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Things only got worse. The next morning, Collins reported to Edwards Air Force Base, California, where he was reminded of his promise to Ted Sturmtal, a test pilot for the XB-70 strategic bomber, that he would ride in the right seat with him on a routine B-52 test with new engines. Collins’ only job was to throw a few switches that Sturmtal couldn’t reach from the pilot’s seat, but even that proved to be a challenge for the newly reformed Collins.
“The only difficulty was that we had to hold the dark beast for four hours, hardly enough to make the bomber stand up, but at least twice as long as any self-respecting fighter pilot likes to. stay in the air, and of course eternity for those who expect the immediate onset of delirium tremens as the most sinister symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, “Collins wrote. “But the promise is a promise, and I could also record the flight time while I was shaking and shaking, so we left.
“For four of the most miserable hours I’ve ever spent, I convinced Ted that the fighter pilots were really weird. As a baby with teeth, I splashed and smeared the tips of my fingers, my pencils, the corner of my handkerchief. I blew imaginary rings of smoke, inhaled powerfully, and exhaled with a stack of small breaths. Ted peered at me strangely, and I realized he was waving at one of my switches. I threw it away and three or four more like it. I fucked up everything I touched, and I’m sure Ted was as happy as I was to be back on earth. “
But it was all worth it, in part because it helped Collins enjoy it even more than when he smoked cigarettes. IN Carrying the fire, the pilot writes that a body, like the brain, “must be used, stretched, forced to the limit.” He later said he felt sorry for those who would never understand the desperate pound of 180 beats per minute or the golden glow of his recovery. “
Within three months of quitting, Collins was pleased to find that “to my surprise, my endurance had improved by about 20 percent” during a physical exam, “despite the fact that I had not changed my weight or exercised. nor have I done anything different other than give up my two packs a day. “
Of course, not everyone can quit smoking so quickly, and jumping aboard an expensive strategic bomber in the middle of a nicotine withdrawal is probably not the best medical advice. But Collins’ story underscores the strong will of many early-era pilots. This type of intensity may be a requirement for you to register to be among the first people to reach the moon.
In both cases, the flight with astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin aboard Apollo 11 was just the most remarkable element in Collins’ long career. Others include a flight with the slippery F-86 Saber fighter; pushing experimental aircraft to the limit at the test pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base; becoming the first person to perform two space trips on the same mission during a trip around the Earth with the Gemini program; running the State Department’s Bureau of State Affairs during one of the most tumultuous periods in American history (including the end of the Vietnam War and the Kent shootings); and help the National Museum of Air and Space come down from the ground (designed for word play) to become the landmark it is today.
On top of that, the pilot had three children and he remained married to his wife Patricia until she died in 2014. Collins himself died of cancer on Wednesday in Naples, Florida, according to his family. Collins is often referred to as the “forgotten astronaut” because he stays on the Apollo 11 command module to control it around the moon while Armstrong and Aldrin descend to the lunar surface. But he will not be forgotten here. Clear sky and wind.
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