R.I.P. ‘Apollo 11’ Astronaut Michael Collins: Experience His Legacy on Streaming

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We come here to celebrate the late, great astronaut Michael Collins, who piloted Apollo 11 to the Moon and back in 1969, and died today at the age of 90. As opposed to the Irish revolutionary Michael Collins (as portrayed by Liam Neeson in the 1996 film bearing his name), the astronaut was more of the cool, calm type, able not only to soar Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin though space, but also to cope with the many hours of isolation in the capsule while he orbited the Dark Side of the Moon.

Because he never stepped on the lunar surface himself, Americans often forgot to name Collins when they speak of the historic Moon landing. But pop culture never forgot Collins, nor his contributions.

We’re grateful to now have so much footage, thanks to the 2019 documentary of Apollo 11 that debuted in time for the mission’s 50th anniversary. Decider’s Anna Menta was right on the money when she described the doc as “jaw-dropping,” adding: “More than just the celestial images—which, it’s worth remembering, are real, not CGI-enhanced special effects—this film gives audiences a true sense of what it was like to be on that eight-day mission. You’ll get to know Armstrong, Aldrin, and, yes, Collins—whose name is not quite as well remembered by history, but who had the crucial job of orbiting the moon solo while Armstrong and Aldrin were on the moon’s surface. You’ll be moved by the sheer collective power of humanity; by the hundreds of engineers and technicians and scientists who came together to pull off the seemingly impossible.”

Sure, the past six decades have given us so many great space movies to rocket us into the universe, but none of them can match the dramatic stakes and suspense of the real thing. Especially with so much behind-the-scenes footage like this.



As far as those space movies go, though…well, I’m always a sucker for space movies, too.

You can watch Lukas Haas humanize Collins in the 2018 film that focused on Ryan Gosling’s Armstrong, First Man.



Cary Elwes portrayed Collins in the 1998 HBO miniseries, From the Earth to the Moon. This includes an alternate version of reality, in which Collins suggests Armstrong should say, upon stepping on the Moon: “If you had any balls, you’d say ‘Oh, my God, what is that thing?’ then scream and cut your mic.”



The MTV generation got to relive the Apollo 11 mission several times a day, as footage from it was used to hype Music TV throughout the 1980s, and the “moon man” became the official MTV Music Video Award trophy.

And the mission or its landing site is featured briefly in the films Independence Day, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and Men in Black 3, as well as in prestige TV such as The Crown.



The real Collins, born in Rome, Italy, in 1930, as the son of a U.S. Army major general, became an astronaut in 1963, and on Gemini 10, became the fourth human ever to conduct a spacewalk. But he’d always dreamed of landing on Mars. “I used to joke that NASA sent me to the wrong place, to the moon,” he said, “because I think Mars is a more interesting place. It’s a place I always read about as a child.”

We can watch Apollo 11 and can dream his dream, or even bigger, thanks to him.

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