Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys
Truly an inspirational read. Collins' personality comes through perfectly: human, humble, excited by his luck, a keen observer of technical and human features and frailties, not trying to sound other than he is.
This is a book about the space programme taken broadly, perhaps best exemplified by the fact that it takes until page 364 (of 478) to get to the take-off of Apollo 11. Collins talks about his history in joining the programme (at the second attempt), his experiences in the Gemini programme before Apollo, the tensions and differences that went into the design, testing, and flight of the vehicles themselves. He deals frankly with his flight experiences and his lack of jealousy at not actually making a moon landing himself: he probably could have done on a later mission had he not consciously decided beforehand to walk away from spaceflight after Apollo 11. He is fascinating on the subject of his own isolation in the orbiting command module, which he found far from lonely and which led to an amazing exchange with Charles Lindbergh, himself no stranger to solo flight.
His relationship with his flight companions is extraordinary, perhaps because he is the most outgoing of the group (Neil Armstrong coming "a distant second" in terms of self-containment to John Young, his commander on Gemini 10). Collins clearly feels something of a lack in his communications with these other men, in that they interact almost purely technically without sharing their inner experiences: one gets the feeling he would have liked to hear more from them, but realised he could never open them up.
5/5. Finished 08 January 2016.
(Originally published on Goodreads.)