Astronaut Michael Collins, who circled the moon during the Apollo 11 landing, has died at age 90

michael collins astronaut apollo 11
Michael Collins practices in the Apollo 11 Command Module simulator on June 19, 1969, at Kennedy Space Center.

  • NASA astronaut Michael Collins, who participated in the Apollo 11 moon-landing mission, has died at 90.
  • Collins piloted the Command Module Columbia while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon.
  • “The thing I remember most is the view of planet Earth from a great distance,” Collins later said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Astronaut Michael Collins, who played a critical role in the Apollo 11 moon-landing mission, has died at age 90.

Collins launched toward the moon with fellow astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in July 1969. While his crewmates became the first people to walk on the lunar surface, Collins piloted the Command Module Columbia that would carry the three of them back to Earth.

“I was the most lonesome person in the whole universe, at least according to the newspapers,” Collins joked in a 2014 Apollo panel held by NASA. “Actually, I was so glad to get behind the moon so Mission Control would shut up.”

The moon’s mass would block communications when the spaceship passed behind it, which was when Collins said he “had some peace and quiet.” During that time on the command module, he performed experiments and photographed the lunar surface.

“The thing I remember most is the view of planet Earth from a great distance,” he later said, according to NPR. “Tiny. Very shiny. Blue and white. Bright. Beautiful. Serene and fragile.”

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The Apollo 11 crew in the Mobile Quarantine Facility, following their return to Earth. From left to right: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin.

Apollo 11 was Collins’ second spaceflight. He also piloted the three-day Gemini X mission in 1966, in which he conducted two spacewalks to retrieve an experimental package orbiting Earth.

According to a statement from his family, Collins died of cancer on Wednesday, after spending “his final days peacefully, with his family by his side.”

The statement continued: “Mike always faced the challenges of life with grace and humility, and faced this, his final challenge, in the same way. We will miss him terribly. Yet we also know how lucky Mike felt to have lived the life he did. We will honor his wish for us to celebrate, not mourn, that life. Please join us in fondly and joyfully remembering his sharp wit, his quiet sense of purpose, and his wise perspective, gained both from looking back at Earth from the vantage of space and gazing across calm water from the deck of his fishing boat.”

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On the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch, July 16, 2019, Michael Collins stands in the suit-up room in the astronaut crew quarters at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Collins was born on October 31, 1930 in Rome, Italy, where his father was a major general for the US Army.

He graduated from the the US Military Academy in West Point, New York in 1952, then became an Air Force test pilot. NASA selected him to be an astronaut in 1963, in its third astronaut class.

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In his space suit, Command Module pilot Michael Collins does a final check of his communications system before the boarding of the Apollo 11 mission.

He received the Presidential Medal for Freedom in 1969, as well as the NASA Exceptional Service Medal.

After Collins left NASA in 1970, he spent seven years as director of the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC, overseeing the construction and opening of the museum building.

“Today the nation lost a true pioneer and lifelong advocate for exploration in astronaut Michael Collins,” acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk said in a statement on Wednesday. “Michael remained a tireless promoter of space … There is no doubt he inspired a new generation of scientists, engineers, test pilots, and astronauts.”

In total, Collins spent 266 hours in space.

“Exploration is not a choice, really, it’s an imperative,” Collins once said, according to NASA. “What would be worth recording is what kind of civilization we Earthlings created and whether or not we ventured out into other parts of the galaxy.”

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Researchers in the Antarctic experience an isolated, confined, extreme environment akin to space – so their lives are ripe for study

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The International Space Station as seen by astronauts from NASA’s space shuttle Endeavour on February 19, 2010.

Space and humans are not a perfect mix. Scientists are constantly discovering new kinds of health risks associated with space, related to how factors like microgravity and cosmic radiation affect our bones and organs.

But prolonged exposure to the environment of space isn’t just a concern for our bodies. What about our minds?

The psychological effects of extreme isolation and confinement during long-term space travel and missions to other planets still represent a big unknown.

If we’re ever going to successfully travel through space and even colonize other worlds, we need to understand much more about what happens to people stuck in unforgiving places for long periods, while very, very far from home.

As it happens, there is a scientific name for these hostile habitats: isolated, confined, extreme (ICE) environments. There is even a field of research in which scientists probe the psychological impacts of living in conditions analogous to long jaunts in space.

Researchers exploring Ross Island, Antarctica.
Researchers exploring Ross Island, Antarctica.

Of all the places on Earth to run ICE experiments, one in particular stands out.

“The Antarctic is regarded as an ideal analog for space because its extreme environment is characterized by numerous stressors that mirror those present during long-duration space exploration,” a team of researchers led by psychologist Candice Alfano from the University of Houston wrote in a new study.

“In addition to small crews and limited communication during Antarctic winter months, the environment offers little sensory stimulation and extended periods of darkness and harsh weather conditions restrict outdoor activity. Evacuation is difficult if not impossible,” the study authors added.

Alfano and her team leveraged the natural hardship of Antarctica’s difficult conditions, monitoring the psychological health and development of personnel living and working at two remote Antarctic research stations during the nine-month study period.

The psychologists devised a monthly self-reporting tool called the Mental Health Checklist, designed to measure personnel’s emotional states and mental health, including positive adaptation (feelings of control and inspiration), poor self-regulation (feelings of restlessness, inattentiveness, and tiredness), and anxious apprehension (feelings of worry and obsessing over things).

The study also monitored and rated Antarctic personnel’s physical symptoms of illness, and Alfano’s team collected saliva samples to assess the personnel’s cortisol levels – a biomarker of stress.

Ultimately, the study results showed that the participants’ positive adaptations decreased over the course of their Antarctic mission, while poor self-regulation emotions increased.

“We observed significant changes in psychological functioning, but patterns of change for specific aspects of mental health differed,” Alfano said in a press release.

“The most marked alterations were observed for positive emotions such that we saw continuous declines from the start to the end of the mission, without evidence of a ‘bounce-back effect’ as participants were preparing to return home,” she added.

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Michael Lopez-Alegria works on the International Space Station in a spacesuit on February 8, 2007.

According to the researchers, much previous research in this area has focused on negative emotional states triggered by the conditions of isolated, confined, and extreme environments.

But it’s possible we’ve been missing out on another simultaneous problem. Diminishing positive feelings over long stays in difficult places appeared to be an almost universal response to the ICE conditions, whereas changes in negative emotion levels were more varied between individuals.

“Positive emotions such as satisfaction, enthusiasm, and awe are essential features for thriving in high-pressure settings,” Alfano said. “Interventions and countermeasures aimed at enhancing positive emotions may, therefore, be critical in reducing psychological risk in extreme settings.”

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The UAE has announced Nora al-Matroushi as its first female astronaut

Mohammed al-Mulla, left, and Noura al-Matroushi, right.

  • The UAE revealed its first female astronaut, who will join the country’s space program.
  • Sheikh Mohammed posted on Twitter on Saturday to announce Nora al-Matroushi’s appointment.
  • At the same time, Mohammed al-Mulla was named as her male counterpart.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The United Arab Emirates on Saturday announced its first female astronaut.

Dubai ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, revealed the news on Twitter.

Nora al-Matroushi, 27, was selected alongside Mohammed al-Mulla. The two were chosen from more than 4,000 applicants in the UAE who applied for the program, Sheikh Mohammed said in a tweet.

“We congratulate the country. We count on them to raise the name of the UAE in the sky,” Sheikh Mohammed added.

The pair will work alongside Hazza Al Mansouri, the first Emirati astronaut to fly into space, and Sultan Al Neyadi, UAE’s reserve astronaut.

Al-Matroushi also took to Twitter. She wrote: “The nation gave me unforgettable moments today. I aim to work hard to script historical moments and achievements that will be etched forever in the memory of our people.”

The astronaut holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the United Arab Emirates University, Mohammed bin Rashin Space Centre shared in a video on Twitter.

She works as an engineer at the National Petroleum Construction Company.

Her love for space began at a young age, “as she enjoyed going to stargazing event,” the video added. The motto she upholds to live life by is: “Do what makes you happy.”

Al-Mulla is a commercial pilot. He works as an aeronaut for Dubai police where he is also the commander of their training division.

The announcement marks the progress being made by several space agencies to advance gender equality in the space industry, which has dominated by men since the 1960s, The National reported.

The pair will commence training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Assuming she takes part in a mission, she could become the first Arab woman in space, according to the UAE government.

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A 29-year-old woman who survived cancer as a child was just selected to fly to space aboard SpaceX’s rocket

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39-A at Kennedy Space Center. Joe Burbank/Orlando

  • 29-year-old childhood cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux is set to board a SpaceX flight later this year.
  • Arceneaux will be joined by three others as part of the first-ever all-civilian crew to enter space.
  • Billionaire Jared Isaacman is chartering the flight and will select two more to join. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

29-year-old Hayley Arceneaux, who survived cancer as a child, is the newest member of an all-civilian crew headed to space aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. 

Arceneaux had bone cancer as a child, but she had a list of life goals: beat cancer, learn Spanish, travel the globe, help other children with cancer, and someday, go to space, the Today Show reported. Arceneaux, now a physician assistant at St. Jude Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, has checked off almost every goal. Now she’s set to achieve the last one after billionaire Jared Isaacman selected her to take one of four seats on a SpaceX flight he chartered for later this year. 

Isaacman founded payments company Shift4Payments. When he chartered the flight, he planned to fill the seats with himself, a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital worker, and a Shift4Payments customer. The fourth seat is being raffled off to benefit childhood cancer research at St. Jude’s, for which Isaacman hopes to raise $200 million and donate $100 million out of his own pocket. The mission, called Inspiration4, will be the first to take off with an all-civilian crew and no professional astronauts. 

On Facebook, Arceneaux said, “I am so grateful for this incredible, once in a lifetime opportunity and honor, and I cannot WAIT to show the world what cancer survivors can do.”

SpaceX did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. 

As a child, Arceneaux was treated for bone cancer at St. Jude’s, where she had metal rods replace parts of the bones in her left legs, The New York Times reported. That will make her the first person with a prosthetic body part to go to space, as well as the youngest American, the Times said. 

In a news release, Richard C. Shadyac Jr., head of the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude, said Arceneaux “will be an incredible ambassador through this mission and inspiration to children fighting cancer and survivors worldwide.” Others who will join Arceneaux and Isaacman will be announced in the coming weeks. 

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What would happen if humans tried to land on Jupiter

  • Jupiter is made of mostly hydrogen and helium gas.
  • If you tried to land on Jupiter, it would be a bad idea.
  • You’d face extremely hot temperatures and you’d free-float in mid-Jupiter with no way of escaping.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: The best way to explore a new world is to land on it. That’s why humans have sent spacecraft to the Moon, Venus, Mars, Saturn’s moon, Titan, and more.

But there are a few places in the solar system we will never understand as well as we’d like. One of them is Jupiter.

Jupiter is made of mostly hydrogen and helium gas. So, trying to land on it would be like trying to land on a cloud here on Earth. There’s no outer crust to break your fall on Jupiter. Just an endless stretch of atmosphere.

The big question, then, is: Could you fall through one end of Jupiter and out the other? It turns out, you wouldn’t even make it halfway. Here’s what would happen if you tried to land on Jupiter.

*It’s important to note that we feature the Lunar Lander for the first half of the descent. In reality, the Lunar Lander is relatively delicate compared to, say, NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Therefore, the Lunar Lander would not be used for a mission to land on any world that contains an atmosphere, including Jupiter. However, any spacecraft, no matter how robust, would not survive for long in Jupiter, so the Lunar Lander is as good of a choice as any for this hypothetical scenario. 

First things first, Jupiter’s atmosphere has no oxygen. So make sure you bring plenty with you to breathe. The next problem is the scorching temperatures. So pack an air conditioner. Now, you’re ready for a journey of epic proportions.

For scale, here’s how many Earths you could stack from Jupiter’s center. As you enter the top of the atmosphere, you’re be traveling at 110,000 mph under the pull of Jupiter’s gravity.

But brace yourself. You’ll quickly hit the denser atmosphere below, which will hit you like a wall. It won’t be enough to stop you, though.

After about 3 minutes you’ll reach the cloud tops 155 miles down. Here, you’ll experience the full brunt of Jupiter’s rotation. Jupiter is the fastest rotating planet in our solar system. One day lasts about 9.5 Earth hours. This creates powerful winds that can whip around the planet at more than 300 mph.

About 75 miles below the clouds, you reach the limit of human exploration. The Galileo probe made it this far when it dove into Jupiter’s atmosphere in 1995. It only lasted 58 minutes before losing contact and was eventually destroyed by the crushing pressures.

Down here, the pressure is nearly 100 times what it is at Earth’s surface.  And you won’t be able to see anything, so you’ll have to rely on instruments to explore your surroundings.

By 430 miles down, the pressure is 1,150 times higher. You might survive down here if you were in a spacecraft built like the Trieste submarine – the deepest diving submarine on Earth. Any deeper and the pressure and temperature will be too great for a spacecraft to endure.

However, let’s say you could find a way to descend even farther. You will uncover some of Jupiter’s grandest mysteries. But, sadly, you’ll have no way to tell anyone. Jupiter’s deep atmosphere absorbs radio waves, so you’ll be shut off from the outside world- unable to communicate.

Once you’ve reached 2,500 miles down, the temperature is 6,100 ºF.  That’s hot enough to melt tungsten, the metal with the highest melting point in the Universe. At this point, you will have been falling for at least 12 hours. And you won’t even be halfway through.

At 13,000 miles down, you reach Jupiter’s innermost layer. Here the pressure is 2 million times stronger than at Earth’s surface. And the temperature is hotter than the surface of the sun. These conditions are so extreme they change the chemistry of the hydrogen around you. Hydrogen molecules are forced so close together that their electrons break lose, forming an unusual substance called metallic hydrogen. Metallic hydrogen is highly reflective. So, if you tried using lights to see down here it would be impossible.

And it’s as dense as a rock. So, as you travel deeper, the buoyancy force from the metallic hydrogen counteracts gravity’s downward pull.  Eventually, that buoyancy will shoot you back up until gravity pulls you back down, sort of like a yo-yo. And when those two forces equal, you’ll be left free-floating in mid-Jupiter, unable to move up or down, and no way to escape!

Suffice it say, trying to land on Jupiter is a bad idea. We may never see what’s beneath those majestic clouds. But we can still study and admire this mysterious planet from afar.


A special thanks to Kunio Sayanagi at Hampton University, for his help with this video.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in February 2018.

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NASA just named the astronauts who could return to the moon in its Artemis program

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NASA astronauts Christina Koch (left) and Jessica Meir on the International Space Station, October 12, 2019.

  • NASA on Wednesday announced the 18 astronauts chosen for its Artemis moon-landing missions. 
  • The astronauts include nine men and nine women — one of whom could become the first woman ever to walk on the moon.
  • NASA aims to launch people to the lunar surface as early as 2024.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

NASA has announced the 18 astronauts who will make up the core group in its Artemis program: a series of missions aimed at landing humans back on the moon.

If the program succeeds, one of the nine female astronauts the agency has selected will become the first woman ever to step foot on the lunar surface. One of the nine men NASA named, meanwhile, will become the first to stand on the moon in over 50 years. The group was selected from NASA’s 47 active astronauts.

“My fellow Americans, I give you the heroes of the future, who will carry us back to the moon and beyond – the Artemis generation,” Pence said at a meeting of the National Space Council on Wednesday, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

Anne McClain
Astronaut Anne McClain speaks with her relatives through safety glass prior to launching toward the space station on a Russian Soyuz spaceship, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, December 3, 2018.

Two of the astronauts chosen, Victor Glover and Kate Rubins, are currently on board the International Space Station. Glover is the pilot of SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission, and Rubins is a flight engineer for Expedition 64. Glover is also the first Black astronaut to serve on a long-term mission aboard space station. 

“We represent all walks of life in America. And every kid in America, and across the world even, now needs to look and say, you know, if you look like me, I can do this,” astronaut Anne McClain, another Artemis team member, said at the meeting.

McClain, who has logged more than 2,000 flight hours on 20 different types of aircraft, spent 204 days aboard the space station from December 2018 to June 2019.

The Artemis program consists of three missions that would culminate in the first crewed moon landing since 1972. NASA’s larger aim is to establish a consistent human presence on the moon by the end of the decade, which will involve building a lunar base and a moon-orbiting space station.

The group of Artemis astronauts also includes Jessica Meir and Christina Koch, who participated in the first all-female spacewalk in 2019, and Joe Acaba, a spaceflight veteran who has flown on three missions and was the first person of Puerto Rican heritage to be named a NASA astronaut. 

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Astronauts Soichi Noguchi (left) and Victor Glover flex the patches for their respective countries – Japan and the US – in their SpaceX spacesuits, September 24, 2020.

The other astronauts in the group are: Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, Matthew Dominick, Woody Hoburg, Jonny Kim, Kjell Lindgren, Nicole Mann, Jasmin Moghbeli, Frank Rubio, Scott Tingle, Jessica Watkins, and Stephanie Wilson.

None has been assigned to a specific mission yet, and NASA may add more team members in the future, including astronauts from other countries. But training for a lunar voyage will take years, which is why NASA named the team members now. 

“Spaceflight is not for the impatient. It’s dangerous, it’s very complicated,” Nicole Mann, who is also slated to fly the first crewed test of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spaceship in June, told National Geographic. “We have a group of people that are working together, not only in the United States, but really in the international community that are going to come together to make this successful.”

A crew of astronauts living and working on the moon

After the Artemis program’s first lunar landing, NASA hopes to send additional astronauts to the moon each year.

Eventually, the agency wants to build an orbiting station similar to the International Space Station, but in the moon’s orbit. NASA also plans to experiment with mining ice on the moon that could be used to create rocket fuel for deep-space journeys. 

Additionally, astronauts who visit the moon could test life-support technologies that could be used on a future mission to Mars.

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An artist’s concept of the Artemis base camp on the moon.

The Artemis program calls for two preliminary missions before the moon landing.

The first, Artemis 1, would be an uncrewed launch of an Orion space capsule atop NASA’s forthcoming mega-rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS). The spacecraft would stay in the moon’s orbit for three days as a test, then fly back. NASA’s current timeline suggests that mission could launch in November 2021. 

After that, Artemis 2 – slated to launch in August 2023 – would be the program’s first crewed moon mission. In a lunar flyby, the Orion capsule would carry four astronauts around the moon’s far side. That crew would go farther into space than any humans before them on a 10-day mission.

Then the Artemis 3 mission would send four astronauts aboard an Orion spacecraft into lunar orbit. From there, a lunar lander would take two of the astronauts to the moon’s surface. They’d stay for about a week, collecting moon rocks and conducting a range of experiments. Then those astronauts would blast back off, rejoin their fellow crew members in the moon’s orbit, and head home.

Artemis’ timing remains in flux

Congress has not yet provided NASA with the $28 billion the agency says it needs over the next four years to make a speedy moon landing happen. 

So president-elect Joe Biden’s administration is likely to push back the aggressive timeline that President Donald Trump established by several years. The modified goals would then align with a proposed bill by the House Science Committee that would aim to land astronauts on the moon by 2028 instead of 2024.

Biden appears to support the Artemis program overall, though. He wrote in August that he hopes to lead “a bold space program that will continue to send astronaut heroes to expand our exploration and scientific frontiers.” 

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