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Circling the lonely moon by yourself, the loneliest person in the universe, weren't you lonely?
July 28, 2009 10:10 AM   Subscribe

Astronaut Michael Collins"I really believe that if the political leaders of the world could see their planet from a distance of 100,000 miles their outlook could be fundamentally changed. That all-important border would be invisible, that noisy argument silenced. The tiny globe would continue to turn, serenely ignoring its subdivisions, presenting a unified façade that would cry out for unified understanding, for homogeneous treatment. The earth must become as it appears: blue and white, not capitalist or Communist; blue and white, not rich or poor; blue and white, not envious or envied."
posted by miss lynnster (60 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is it sad that I long for the day when we are like the society in Futurama where we are all Earthicans?
posted by subaruwrx at 10:13 AM on July 28, 2009


I think this is one of my favorite parts:

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.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:15 AM on July 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


Found a great article on him, btw.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:19 AM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Mike Collins is the Apollo astronaut I would most like to sit down for a beer with. Thanks for this post, miss lynnster.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:19 AM on July 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


bigbluemarblefilter.
posted by localroger at 10:21 AM on July 28, 2009


I long for the day when we all realize we are simply multicellular flesh bags composed of approximately 75% water and 25% various carbon compounds.

Watch one of those 'size of the universe' videos and read Carl Sagan's 'Pale Blue Dot'.

Personally, I think society could do without idolizing the entertainment industry, for one, without the mess of illogic that particularly conservatards seem to embody, without the glorification of stupid, and could do with the permanent state of realizing that to, say, Arcturan grabbleblotchits, no matter what color you are, no matter what sex you are, no matter what you think, no matter who you choose to love, no matter what your abilities and disabilities are, that you are a delicious bit of meat that tastes good with a bit of barbeque sauce.
posted by kldickson at 10:21 AM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Awesome Mike Collins from the film In the Shadow of the Moon:

A lot of things that used to seem important don’t seem as much so. I’m not saying that I’m able to face life with greater equanimity because I’ve flown to the moon, but I try to. And maybe some of our terrestrial squabbles don’t seem as important after having flown to the moon as they did before.

posted by futureisunwritten at 10:24 AM on July 28, 2009


I long for the day when we all realize we are simply multicellular flesh bags composed of approximately 75% water and 25% various carbon compounds.

That sort of trite intellectual reductionism is precisely the opposite of what Collins was getting at, though.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:28 AM on July 28, 2009


> Is it sad that I long for the day when we are like the society in Futurama where we are all Earthicans?

Not at all, but I fear that as long as there are human beings we'll find something or other to fight over. To quote a different animated comedy:

Cartman: So there is no war now in the future?
Blavius: Of course there's war! The stupid French-Chinese think they have a right to Hawaii!
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:28 AM on July 28, 2009


When I read something so delightful I am a bit taken aback when I realize that we spend more money on our military "mission" in space than we do for our NSA discovery missions. Yes. We do! Why? So we can be Number One in Space. But only for national security, got it?
posted by Postroad at 10:30 AM on July 28, 2009


Burhanistan - intellectual reductionism? I was trying to encompass a sense of precisely what we mean to the universe in my description, which is precisely that - just bags of water, really.
posted by kldickson at 10:38 AM on July 28, 2009


I was trying to encompass a sense of precisely what we mean to the universe

How do you know what we "mean" to the universe?
posted by Burhanistan at 10:39 AM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's a noble idea but I don't think the average politician is going to be swayed by such an awesome view. They are more worried about justifying the PAC money they are receiving and making sure their constituents see them acting on their behalf on issues of local importance which kind of obscures a 'we-are-the-world' viewpoint.

Moreover, I think this ideal goes against a lot of mankind's innate nature. We are territorial and we nest. We like to defend our spaces. My desk, my office, my car, my neighborhood, my city, my state, my country, my planet...

I know... rain... parade... sorry.

Hey you kids, GET OFF MY LAWN!
posted by pixlboi at 10:46 AM on July 28, 2009


It's a noble idea but I don't think the average politician is going to be swayed by such an awesome view.

Still, it's an appealing idea blasting some politicians 100,000 miles into space.
posted by mazola at 10:49 AM on July 28, 2009 [13 favorites]


Related
posted by Burhanistan at 10:50 AM on July 28, 2009


Heroes abound, and should be revered as such, but don't count astronauts among them.

Sorry, but these guys were my heroes as a kid and they still are today. Perhaps even more so after reading this interview.
posted by JeffK at 10:56 AM on July 28, 2009


The sad truth is that some people are so inconceivably narcissistic that it would take something like that to make them realize...naaah, forget it. Just launch 'em and leave 'em.
posted by Xoebe at 10:56 AM on July 28, 2009


For what its worth, I feel like Generation Y-ers (or Echo Boomers or whatever the next prominent statistician labels my generation) have never lived in a world without regular space travel and regular pictures of the earth from space.

National borders have always seemed bizarrely inefficient to me. As have multiple languages. Is this a product of my generational positioning?

Could Collin's wish come true within a generation or two, without everyone actually having to go into space?
posted by jefficator at 10:59 AM on July 28, 2009


How do you know what we "mean" to the universe?

FROM: Universe

TO: Humanity

SUBJECT: Your meaning

MESSAGE: You are bags of water.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:04 AM on July 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


mazola: "It's a noble idea but I don't think the average politician is going to be swayed by such an awesome view.

Still, it's an appealing idea blasting some politicians 100,000 miles into space.
"

--------
Youtube Link

Lyrics (1st half of the song -- see the rest here


One-Way Ticket To Pluto"

Get ready for the Blast Off!
And don't forget the Hype!
We're going into space.

Distinguished scientists
A pesky senator
And monkey turds leaking from the lab
All brought to us play-by-play by Howard Cosell

You're going where no man has gone before
Because we owe you some favors
And besides you're bright
A little too bright

Step one:
Senator, your vomit,
It's time to analyze it
For the folks back home

Open the hatch, launch the war satellite
That the commies aren't supposed to know about
Our real challenge is to keep it a secret
From the press back home

You're going where no man has gone before
Don't ask us where that is-we have no idea

You're chosen for this great mission
Because you're hearty and strong
And make a lot of fuss
Especially around us
We like you better when you're far away "
posted by symbioid at 11:04 AM on July 28, 2009


Collins needs to spend a little time with the Total Perspective Vortex. After all, if life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then one thing it cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:06 AM on July 28, 2009


Today, a politician in space realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration — that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death; life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves.
posted by orme at 11:06 AM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


National borders have always seemed bizarrely inefficient to me. As have multiple languages. Is this a product of my generational positioning?

To a large degree, yes. That said, we're seeing English becoming the de facto World Language, and entities such as the EU are making great headway toward a World Government.

I doubt we'll ever see humanity stop having any conflict, but we're getting more and more unified all the time. Of course, looking at the differences between New York/Boston/LA and backwater Alabama, global government might not necessarily improve third-world countries that much.
posted by explosion at 11:06 AM on July 28, 2009


I long for the day when we all realize we are simply multicellular flesh bags composed of approximately 75% water and 25% various carbon compounds.

I still remember the day I found out that we're composed largely of verbose, multilingual, and combative bacteria. "I think of you as 95-99% bacterial." (Previously).

Bacteria went to the moon, too, you know. I wonder how they're doing ...
posted by maudlin at 11:06 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The earth must become as it appears: #069 and #FFF
posted by dhartung at 11:12 AM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I doubt we'll ever see humanity stop having any conflict, but we're getting more and more unified all the time. Of course, looking at the differences between New York/Boston/LA and backwater Alabama, global government might not necessarily improve third-world countries that much.

So did you know I'm in Alabama, or did you just loose?
posted by jefficator at 11:15 AM on July 28, 2009


He joined the astronaut corps in 1962 and flew on one of America's two-man Gemini capsules with veteran astronaut John Young, who flew on a later Apollo mission.

(space nerd)
Young flew on Apollo 10 (which practiced for the Apollo 11 landing) and commanded Apollo 16.
(/space nerd)

I do wish Collins had stayed with the program a bit longer, as he would have been slated to command Apollo 17 and gotten a chance to walk on the moon, which he missed due to be being bumped up to CM pilot. But then again, there's a lot of respect for the fact that he didn't and left when he felt it was right. There's a quiet dignity to the man that I've always admired because he hasn't played himself as a hero or tried to be in the spotlight, unlike Aldrin.

That said, Collin's eloquent appeal to the best that it's humanity sounds a naive (yet wonderfully so). As if a politician would allow themselves to separated from their lobbyists.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:30 AM on July 28, 2009


Or not.
posted by Danf at 11:33 AM on July 28, 2009


Burhanistan has it. There's a guy here in town who has been diligently working toward having more people experience the Overview Effect. Here's his site.
posted by yoga at 11:34 AM on July 28, 2009


National borders have always seemed bizarrely inefficient to me.

Something I read that stuck in my mind is that half the countries in the world today did not exist as such only 60 years ago.
posted by binturong at 11:38 AM on July 28, 2009


Pepsi Terran bags of water filter.
posted by biffa at 11:38 AM on July 28, 2009


I long for the day when we all realize we are simply multicellular flesh bags composed of approximately 75% water and 25% various carbon compounds.

I think the Animaniacs summed it up best
posted by Midnight Rambler at 11:43 AM on July 28, 2009


The tiny globe would continue to turn, serenely ignoring its subdivisions, presenting a unified façade that would cry out for unified understanding, for homogeneous treatment.

Dude sounds like he was seriously high when he came up with this idea...



You know, like in space...

*rimshot*

posted by quin at 11:44 AM on July 28, 2009


I doubt it. They'll just think "Wow, it's so small. I really could control all of it!"
posted by delmoi at 11:58 AM on July 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Andy Ihnatko posted some excerpts from Michael Collins' book Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys. Really gives you a sense of what it must have been like out there.
posted by ssmith at 11:59 AM on July 28, 2009


Moreover, I think this ideal goes against a lot of mankind's innate nature. We are territorial and we nest. We like to defend our spaces. My desk, my office, my car, my neighborhood, my city, my state, my country, my planet...

Man, I think that's the point. We need to evolve past this basic mammalian territorialism ... or else Charlton Heston's going to be doing a lot of angry shouting and damning ...

As for Michael Collins, well, this one's for him.
posted by philip-random at 12:08 PM on July 28, 2009


entities such as the EU are making great headway toward a World Government.

If by "great headway" you mean "show absolutely no signs of moving towards that role whatsoever," then, yes, you're right.

The EU shows no signs of becoming an effective European government, let alone a "world government."

As to the post; well, it's a sweet idea and all, but I'm not sure that seeing the earth from space actually would change anybody's opinion about anything. I think that who is doing the seeing is always going to be more important that what is seen.

A devout Christian could look and say "see, there is the majesty of God's creation laid before me; clearly God wishes this single orb to be subject to his unifying rule."

I do think an actual threat from outer space would have a natural tendency to unite us (we see that phenomenon all the time; when a country is threatened with invasion, internal divisions often, though not always, lose their power). But the mere visceral perception of the world as a ball spinning in space; that seems a rather neutral fact.
posted by yoink at 12:09 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Astronauts have always been a great source for humbling quotes.

From Laurie Sheck's Notes on the Earth Seen From Space:

Over and over the word fragile.

"It looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart." This from James Irwin, crew member of Apollo 15.

Astronaut Loren Acton spoke of seeing it "contained in the thin, moving, incredibly fragile shell of the biosphere."

To Aleksei Leonov, the first man to walk in space, the earth looked "touchingly alone."

And when Vitali Sevastyanov was asked by ground control what he saw, he replied, "Half a world to the left, half a world to the right, I can see it all. The Earth is so small."

posted by isnotchicago at 12:24 PM on July 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


Interesting fact: NASA's '08 budget ($17.3 billion) is ONE-FIFTH of the amount Americans spend annually on beer.

Other interesting fact: Americans' enjoyment of beer is at least 5 times their enjoyment of space.

I agree, Michael Collins is the astronaut I'd like to meet, even if he has never made a rap video. Someone I know did meet him last week, and said he was great. His book Touching the Fire is terrific.
posted by lukemeister at 12:25 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here's a great video of him lecturing. Apparently he wishes we'd gone to Mars instead and is really looking for a good Cabernet that's under $10.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:28 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hmm. I've been thinking of getting a copy of this book (in the original language) for quite some time, mostly because the author is completely irresistible. This post reminded me that the subject is pretty cool too. Guess it's time to do something about this.

"It's bad enough to go somewhere and have to wait alone in the car, but what if you traveled all the way to the moon and had to stay in the spacecraft?"
posted by effbot at 12:51 PM on July 28, 2009


"So we can be Number One in Space. But only for national security, got it?"

What's always struck me about astronauts is that exploration angle. Which is probably why he wants to appeal to the better nature in humanity. My experience has influenced me such that I tend to believe the best way to make folks of one mind is to smash their heads together. But I have been pulling away from that.
Still, the view from the ground isn't so bad, and can afford one the proper perspective. But so few people really look up.
I remember tripping balls lying on my back floating with an aircraft carrier group on our way someplace to break something and thinking how dumb it was - war obviously - but too the whole concept of horizontal space as territory and so forth and how we reckon distance.
I mean - you can travel thousands of miles into some meat grinder some place, come home and think you're safe and distanced from it. But really, you're never more than a 1/2 hour ride in a car from desolation and death 30 miles up.
So no one needs to leave Earth. If anyone really looked up, and thought about just how fragile that skin of atmosphere really is they'd get that maybe we shouldn't be dumping crap into it and worrying about other things that pretty much pale in comparison.
I mean if you could drive down the street 30 miles and the world ended there in a big void where life wasn't possible without massive support and equipment, you'd be a little less ballsy in kicking over other people's ox cart.
But hell most people don't worry about what their neighbors are doing, if they're beating their kid or some such, much less what's going on (or rather, what's not) 30 miles away.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:24 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


MESSAGE: You are bags of water.

Ugly bags of mostly water, to be exact.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:32 PM on July 28, 2009


Seeing the earth from space won't change the facts on the ground.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 3:56 PM on July 28, 2009


On the other hand, if you lived in space, you might not care as much about the facts on the ground.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 3:56 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Some more choice quotes:

Suddenly, from behind the rim of the Moon, in long, slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth... home.
— Edgar Mitchell

To fly in space is to see the reality of Earth, alone. The experience changed my life and my attitude toward life itself. I am one of the lucky ones.
— Roberta Bondar

It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.
— Neil Armstrong

In outer space you develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, "Look at that, you son of a bitch!"
— Edgar Mitchell

For those who have seen the Earth from space, and for the hundreds and perhaps thousands more who will, the experience most certainly changes your perspective. The things that we share in our world are far more valuable than those which divide us.
— Donald Williams

(Lots more here.)
posted by Rhaomi at 4:11 PM on July 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


One of the things that struck me when I watched In The Shadow of the Moon was the philosophical /spiritual side of each astronaut. I suppose the kind of perspective one gets so far from the Earth [as well as the shared emotions that each felt on their unique missions] will do that.
posted by Rashomon at 5:09 PM on July 28, 2009


I really believe that if the political leaders of the world could see their planet from a distance of 100,000 miles their outlook could be fundamentally changed. ... The earth must become as it appears: blue and white, not capitalist or Communist; blue and white, not rich or poor; blue and white, not envious or envied."

And Smurfs would be even more popular.
posted by smoke at 5:20 PM on July 28, 2009


He flew in space, yada yada -- he is a true hero for that, indeed.

But his utopian vision is just plain silly -- there ARE differences in societies, ideologies, cultures, and such, and some ARE better than others, and some ARE worse than others, and some DO deserve to perish, and others SHOULD thrive.

We can't just sit back and impose mass harmony on our planet because it "sounds" good.
posted by davidmsc at 10:00 PM on July 28, 2009


Here's a proposal. If you want to run or hold high office, any nuclear armed state they send you up in a rocket, stick you in a suit with 12 hours of air, then leave you in orbit facing the earth for lets say 4 hours. 4 Hours as vulnerable and alone as any human being can possibly be in the most hostile environment imaginable.


Then they collect you and take you back down.

You want your finger on the button? Fine. We can at least attempt to make sure you have a little forced perspective first.

(Thanks to Stanislaw Lem, from whom I stole this idea)

davidmsc:

If you missed the point any more your post would have crash landed on Mars.

All these people are talking about a perspective that transcends tribes nations cultures or even species as being discrete separate entities, and acknowledging that they all exist as part of a whole. Noone's talking about mass harmony all we're talking about is a little bit of perspective, and hopefully a little bit of empathy.

Despite your desire to running screaming away from that kind larger view of the world, it is ultimately the ability to have and act on that wider perspective that is going to be key for any culture or nation to survive.
posted by Grimgrin at 10:45 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


But his utopian vision is just plain silly -- there ARE differences in societies, ideologies, cultures, and such, and some ARE better than others, and some ARE worse than others, and some DO deserve to perish, and others SHOULD thrive.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and speculate that davidmsc is reasonably sure that HIS society, ideology, and culture are better than others and should thrive.

So, okay, I'll start the collection. Can we send this assjack into space? How much will it cost?

(Grimgrin gave a much better, more reasoned response. I'm getting too old, cranky, and really tired of tribalistic, small-minded assjacks to try to explain to them why they're wrong. Sorry.)
posted by John of Michigan at 11:48 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sorry Pollyanna, these are heartless politicians you are talking about.
posted by tarvuz at 12:06 AM on July 29, 2009


A few people here are saying that sending politicians into space wouldn't change their perspective, but it seems like every single guy who's actually been there had a profound moment that, by their own account, changed them from how they thought before. Prior to going into space (let's not forget that the space race was all about beating Russia), they thought that politics and nationalism was pretty damn important, but afterwards they felt that it was just one part of a much more important whole.

No-one's really offered a reason why it wouldn't have the same effect on other people, just generic cynicism, so I'll be taking the word of the guys who've actually been out there over the armchair commentators. Although I'd be swayed if there was any evidence that the Apollo astronauts were all just delightfully Nice Guys and hippies *before* they went into space, and not driven, competitive and overconfident fighter pilots.
posted by harriet vane at 4:12 AM on July 29, 2009


Although I'd be swayed if there was any evidence that the Apollo astronauts were all just delightfully Nice Guys and hippies *before* they went into space, and not driven, competitive and overconfident fighter pilots.

Being an astronaut required mastering one's self and machines more than a politician's job of mastering others. Looking at the Wikipedia for astronaut-politicians, there doesn't seem be an overlap between the two fields so I'd speculate that they're different types of personalities.

Oh and thanks for the post, miss lynnster. Michael Collins has always been awesome to me and it's good to see others noticing him.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:22 AM on July 29, 2009


It's truly inspiring to think of these men flying to the moon, flagging it, and moving on.
posted by Sparx at 5:37 AM on July 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


For those wondering what they look like now, here are the Apollo 11 astronauts in a photo-op with Pres. Obama. (I'm sure Getty Editorial has gobs of photos from that event too.)
posted by aught at 7:46 AM on July 29, 2009


(Sorry, should have captioned; l-r: Aldrin, Collins, Armstrong.)
posted by aught at 7:48 AM on July 29, 2009


But his utopian vision is just plain silly -- there ARE differences in societies, ideologies, cultures, and such, and some ARE better than others, and some ARE worse than others, and some DO deserve to perish, and others SHOULD thrive.

Thanks, davidmsc. Noted for the dumbest thing I've read on MetaFilter in a while. Grimgrin speaks eloquently as to why above. John of Michigan speaks to my frustration at being online right now and not able to reach out and ..... tell you how much I love you.
posted by philip-random at 9:03 AM on July 29, 2009


...there doesn't seem be an overlap between the two fields so I'd speculate that they're different types of personalities.

Fair enough. But self-mastery doesn't necessarily make you a nice Kum-Ba-Yah person - in fact, it can make you less tolerant of other people's weaknesses. And it caused a radical change in outlook for the guys who have done it, so I don't think it's unreasonable to assume it'd do the same for other people.

Or maybe it's just because we get a different type of politician here in Oz: not that they're not selfish arseholes, but it doesn't take as much money to get the job as it does in the US and you're more likely to get called out on stupid shit, just because they're a smaller herd and can't hide as easily. I can't see Heffernan or Tuckey changing their minds about anything ever, but get Martin Ferguson or Brendan Joyce up in a shuttle and it'd be interesting to see if they got a new perspective on things.

Also: after I saw In The Shadow Of The Moon, I totally wanted Mike Collins to be my new grandad. He's awesome.
posted by harriet vane at 5:09 AM on July 30, 2009


Cyclone Chief Executive Harry Schoell (his company is the one that makes the corpse-eating vegetarian battlefield robot) apparently got the memo:
"It's not even efficient," he said, describing the human body as essentially a sack of water. "It's not practical. It's ridiculous."
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:35 PM on July 30, 2009


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