Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journey by Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins is one of the more exciting books I’ve read recently. Not just because of Collins’ down to Earth writing style and pro-American exceptionalism mindset, both of which made it fun to read, but also because of the subject matter; the space program from the Gemini program through the Apollo missions.
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Furthermore, Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journey by Michael Collins is a book that everyone should read because it is a book about an amazing American achievement. Right now, we in the American Republic are facing a difficult set of circumstances. Our government officials are corrupt, Marxist thugs are tearing down statues, leftists around the nation are protesting and fighting the police, and our culture seems to be on the decline rather than improving.
But a quick trip down memory lane shows that that is just the position we were in in 1969 when the events in Carrying the Fire happened. Nixon was in office after the corrupt and ineffective LBJ administration finally was kicked out of office. Democrats around the nation were rioting in support of our enemy, North Vietnam. Thousands of the boys in Vietnam, like the ones in Phase Line Green, were dying or being wounded every month.
Things were not great back then either. But, despite all of those headwinds, America was still able to send a man to the moon. Even though our culture seemed to be stagnating, riots were happening, and we were in a war, we could still send a man to the moon.
That is inspiring and I think it should be uplifting to all Americans right now. Even in the depth of our struggles, America can achieve great things. That is a lesson of Carrying the Fire and it is one that people need to hear right now as America enters one of its darkest periods in a long time.
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Summary of Carrying the Fire
Despite his essential roll in the Apollo 11 mission and important contributions to the Gemini program, especially in the field of spacewalking, Michael Collins is oft-forgotten when it comes to the space program. Almost certainly that’s because he was overshadowed by the other two members of his Apollo 11 mission; Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, the first two humans to walk on the moon.
However, throughout his entire telling of his career in Carrying the Fire, Collins doesn’t sound angry or resentful about that in the slightest. No, from the beginning of the story, Collins is a humble, all-American patriot who just wanted to do his part in the Space Race. Well, and go to outer space, of course. But he doesn’t hype himself up.
Despite having cause to be proud and the fact that Carrying the Fire is an autobiography, Collins takes pains to describe the entire experience, and how everyone felt rather than just focusing on himself. He goes over the talent of the other astronauts, the genius of the NASA engineers, and the bravery of everyone involved. He’s a humble, American hero. Not a MacArthur, using his autobiography to make himself seem larger than life.
Even better, in my view, is the focus on space exploration. As I described in my review of The Theory of Everything, I find the concept of space exploration to be incredibly interesting. The spirit of excitement that surrounds it, the technological innovation involved, and the vast unknowns related to it are all so interesting to read about and even more interesting to imagine. The only downside is the increased government spending, but, well, it’s better to spend on space than on welfare, as Collins discusses towards the end of Carrying the Fire.
Collins discusses everything about the missions in Carrying the Fire. Mission training, the intense planning involved, how they worked with contractors to design everything for the missions, and the fears and unknowns involved in heading into outer space for days at a time. If you’re interested in space, it’s the book to read.
Particularly, I thought that hearing about the progression of his career was very interesting and enlightening. Usually, when we hear about great men, we tend to imagine them as always being at the top. For example, I always think of astronauts as astronauts. Not as test pilots or whatever else they did beforehand. But that line of thinking ignores their whole struggle to get to the top and to get to be the ones to land on the moon. So, to read about how Collins became the Michael Collins that anyone interested in the space race and/or Apollo program knows about was very interesting and helped provide perspective.
Analysis of Carrying the Fire
To me, there are two main takeaways that a reader of Carrying the Fire should take away from reading it.
The first is what can happen if private industry is involved. We would never have gotten to the moon without private industry. Lockheed, Northrop, Boeing, and more all did their part to build the various systems required for the space missions. Yes, they had substantial government contracts, but it still would have been impossible without them. In fact, it almost certainly would have been better if only they were involved. The Soviets didn’t get there, after all. Nor have the Chinese. We’re the only ones that have. Image what will happen once the profit motive is unleashed in space. Just think what SpaceX, Blue Origin, and the others will accomplish.
The second is what a hero looks like. Collins certainly doesn’t portray himself as a hero. Just an Air Force test pilot who wanted to go to space. And in that, I think he’s a hero. He went and did his job, as terrifying it must have been to be launched on a rocket into outer space.
We all might think that we would like to go to space. I know that I think I would love to get to head up in a rocket and look down at Earth and into space. But would you really? Would you be willing to hop on a rocket that had blown up before and be launched to the moon in a flimsy structure with barely enough fuel for you to get there and back, if you even go there in the first place?
When it is phrased in that manner, I think the answer is much less obvious. I am not so sure that I would have the bravery to do so if I were one of the men in Carrying the Fire. For that reason, I think they are heroes. They were willing to do something dangerous that few others would. And that is something that is certainly worth honoring.
Plus, it’s just a fun read. Space and exploration of space are incredibly exciting to read about. Who doesn’t like rockets and the moon?
That ties in with the fact that space and access to space is becoming increasingly important. The US, far from just being able to go out and explore space is in a competition with China to do so most effectively. Space is the ultimate high ground. We need it for our military to perform effectively, and our companies need to have access to it so that we can monetize space and lower the cost of access to it.
For that reason, books like Carrying the Fire are incredibly important; they get people excited about space. And for the government to fund huge undertakings like NASA’s space operations, we need people to be excited. So, share this article so more people learn about the Apollo landings and get excited about space!
Read Carrying the Fire if you have time. It’s absolutely thrilling and the story of a true American hero. Plus, it was written in 1974, before any of the ridiculous conspiracy theories about the moon were written. So it’s a true tale, not a collection of wacko stories. It’s well worth your time.
And, best of all, it is one of those books that is inspiring and gives you something to look up to. Too much of our popular culture today is dark and foreboding. Our heroes are attacked every day. We need heroes again. Reading books like Carrying the Fire that are about America’s greatest moments help provide us with those heroes, whatever the people that want to tear them down try to say.
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