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Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journey

4.42  ·  Rating details ·  2,050 ratings  ·  169 reviews
NASA astronaut Michael Collins trained as an experimental test pilot before venturing into space as a vital member of the Gemini 10 and Apollo 11 missions. In Carrying the Fire, his account of his voyages into space and the years of training that led up to them, Collins reveals the human tensions, the physical realities, and the personal emotions surrounding the early year ...more
Paperback, 478 pages
Published April 3rd 2001 by Cooper Square Press (first published 1974)
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4.42  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,050 ratings  ·  169 reviews

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Jun 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Every school library in Britain ought to possess a copy of this book.
Recommended to ^ by: Paul Harris

Here is the book to convince every fourteen year old that a sound practical knowledge of the language of maths and engineering is both enormously exciting and career liberating. How very different our world would be today if we employed many more research engineers (in which I include test pilots turned astronauts) than self-obsessed bankers!

This is a book to read and re-read. This is a book I cherish.

This is not merely a book on how Man realised his dream of landing on our Moon. Instead
This is probably the best non-fictional book I've ever read. On nearly five hundred elated, honest, vivid and detail-filled pages Michael Collins wraps up his brilliant career as a USAF test pilot, engineer and NASA astronaut on both the Gemini 10 and Apollo 11 missions. Being very humble, Collins confesses that he thinks he never possessed extreme talent or expertise in any of the necessary fields of becoming an astronaut (I'm sure he did though), and that his career was rather an excellent thr ...more
Apr 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: autobiography
Collins notes early on in this book that he chose to eschew the services of a ghostwriter, apologizing that the prose will not be as polished as a result. It was a wise choice.

Collins' voice is friendly and straightforward, eminently likeable. He has little interest in delving into deep psychological analysis or talking much at all about his personal life, choosing instead to focus on his path, and NASA's, to the moon. Self-deprecating humor and a profound appreciation for the contributions of t
Feb 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Out of the several NASA-related books I've read, this was my favorite. It was written in 1974, so the subject matter of space flight was a lot fresher on Collins's mind compared to a lot of NASA biographies that were written in the 2000s. I think that gives the book a more lively feel than other biographies, since the Apollo program had just wound down and he could still recall things vividly. And Collins wrote it without a ghostwriter, which is pretty impressive since his writing is very good. ...more
Scott Foshee
Jan 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If You Read Just One Book By An Astronaut, Make It This One

I am a space buff and have read many good accounts of the space program, including Andrew Chaikin’s amazing “A Man on the Moon,” which should be required reading for everyone interested in these genera. As for books written by astronauts, “Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys” by Michael Collins is probably the best I have read along with Jim Lovell’s “Lost Moon,” aka “Apollo 13.” An important point to make right off the bat is tha
Claudia Turner
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
While this was written several decades ago it feels timeless and important. Not many people could say they’ve been to space, or the moon, or orbited the moon by themselves- at times the only human in the universe to be on the dark side of the moon- while their companions were walking on its gray sands.

I could say I wanted more- I don’t know what more, maybe more introspection, or poetry- but really for what this is I’m wholly satisfied. I like the stark honesty and detail Collins uses to descri
Carrying the Fire is the memoir of Michael Collins, who was command module pilot on Apollo 11, the first human lunar landing mission. More than forty years after its first publication, it is still the gold standard of Apollo astronaut bios. Collins has a real feel for writing, compared with his colleagues, most of whom have written very dryly. (It is also worth noting that Collins is one of the very few astronauts--maybe the only one--who wrote without the need for a collaborator.) He was known ...more
Jan 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An educational, inspiring read.

Michael Collins never set out to be an Astronaut, or make history, but he did and he did it with determination, humor and a Rocket named Apollo XI.

This book was written when everything we know about Space today, wasn't known then. There was no ISS, there was no high tech laptops and colorful video cameras. Mobile phones today have more advancements than Space did in those times. Yet they managed to send Astronauts to the moon, more than once. Everything back then w
Jul 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Michael Collins has a fantastic story to tell. He is a fine writer - first class, actually - and a wise and insightful human being. Enough said.
Janita Knowles
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was mentioned in a radio interview (available on podcast as ABC program Conversations with Richard Fidler) with the Australian physicist (Prof Brian O'Brien) who worked on the Apollo missions. Richard must have read this book, as he mentioned the book AND the documentary "Shadow of the Moon" to the Professor. This sent me on an Apollo mission binge, and I watched many interviews with Michael Collins on YouTube, and was especially intrigued by his love of literature, even spontaneously ...more
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brian Laslie
Oct 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is a reason that of every astronaut memoir or biography...this remains the one that they are all measured against.
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio, read2019
a delightfully personable account of astronaut selection, training, and missions. (aside from a few era-typical descriptions with sexist/racist overtones)
Michael R. Nelson
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A true classic in astronaut literature and the Gemini and Apollo eras. Read this instead of sensationalized fictionalized fluff like "The Right Stuff". Highly recommended.
Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Simply magnificent! As I've spent the last few days tearing through this engrossing book, I've been mindful of how I might be able to review it once I'd reached its end. Now that I have done so I find that I don't really know quite how to express what it is about Michael Collins' writing that moved me so much - except that I know this is most definitely one of the best memoirs I've ever read. It is truly a one-off, as the events it describes are so unique (most obviously the historic Apollo 11 m ...more
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What to say other than that I'm overwhelmed with things described in this majestic book.

To read about spacewalk and orbiting the moon firsthand left me with the feeling of extreme humility and at the same time left me inspired to continue my own explorations (whatever small they may seem) and to always be curious.

Gemini 10 and Apollo 11 descriptions are like poetry. Knowing that Michael Collins wrote it himself is astonishing.

The last chapter with the author's thoughts about the world and his li
Simon Dobson
Apr 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: space buffs, problem solvers, and the solitary
Of the three crewmen for Apollo 11, which is likely to have the most interesting story? The mission commander, first man to set foot on the moon and subsequently a household name? The co-pilot of the lunar module, cheated of glory by being only the second man to walk on the moon? Or the command module pilot, alone in orbit around the moon while the landing progressed, never setting foot on its surface?

Charles Lindbergh believes the latter, and I am inclined to agree with him.

Carrying the Fire is
Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
When reaching the last pages of this book I was both eager to read what the last thoughts and conclusions from Collins were, and sad because I wanted more. When I finished reading Carrying the fire, I started questioning the saying "a picture is worth a thousand words". No picture of astronauts, rockets, Moon or Earth can describe the experience of being an astronaut and travelling to space as well as Michael Collins does in this book. Even though it doesnt depict in much detail the first landin ...more
Angela Joyce
Apr 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: autobiographies
I was told by a reputable source that this one is the standard by which other first-hand accounts of space travel are judged, and I can see why.
Aug 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I've always been fascinated by space, and I've read many books on the subject. But of all the books I've read, "Carrying the Fire" is probably the best. Collins has a wonderful frankness and sense of humor; his experiences as a pilot and astronaut offer a wonderful history of the American space program without the tendency to romanticize those efforts. He offers behind the scenes details (including how the early astronauts peed in space - I confess, I'd wondered about that!) and glimpses at the ...more
Duncan Cameron
Feb 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Compelling account of the heady cold war space race days. Michael Collins is one of the superdudes among amazing top test pilots.
"The third man" of the first lunar landing, and Gemini veteran.
We're talking about a living legend.

An astronaut's journey is exactly that. A journey from almost the start of space exploration to the ultimate beginning of Moon exploration and on.

What a story, and how well told, this has to be in the top 5 astrotales ever.

The only reason I never gave it 5 stars was his p
Feb 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book brought back so many memories of growing up as a teenager in the 1960's and vicariously experiencing the adventures of the astronauts on TV. It brought back the excitement of watching the lift-off of huge rockets with little capsules on top, with the astronauts riding off into space and the fire and explosion beneath them. And it brought back that special summer evening when the family sat glued to the TV to see Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon and hear his now famous first wor ...more
Jul 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I didn't think I would like this book as much as I did. I read the dust jacket at Half Price Books and thought I'd give it a try. Like most people of my generation, I know little about the space program of the 60s. Collins' style (and especially his wonderful sense of humor) kept me hooked from the first page to the last. The fact that we even got into space, let alone traveled to the moon. landed on it, and walked around, is simply amazing after having read what was required to accomplish this ...more
May 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Michael Collins is the best writer of all the astronauts. His memoir is full of delicious anecdotes about the process of becoming an astronaut and about the office politics and weird public relations efforts involved. His description of what it's like to be alone behind the Moon, isolated from not only the Sun but from all humankind including the LM crew who were necessarily on the front side, is thoughtful and inspiring. Carrying the Fire has made a contribution to vicarious human experience th ...more
Apr 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is among my favorite space program biographies to date. Michael Collins, often thought of as the "third" astonaut on Apollo 11, recounts his experiences as a test pilot, a Gemnini astronaut and as the Command Module Pilot on Apollo 11. His observations shed light on the inner-worings of NASA during the 1960's, and he shares uncensored thoughts about his astronaut colleagues. While this book might make the average reader's head hurt, it's a great piece for a space buff who already knows a li ...more
May 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An account of an incredible journey by a very believable, very able, very modest writer. "There were no dull days in my time at NASA so there should be no dull pages in this book": and carries it off. Frightening in places even though the events themselves are well known. Completely unspoilt by the passage of time, either (the 1975 version, that is).
Paul Russell
Feb 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be a well written account of Michael's life and enjoyed it immensely. From his career prior to and including his part in the initial moon landing, all covered in enough detail to keep it interesting and readable without getting overly technical.
Thank you Mr Collins for your book. Inspiring :)
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book. If your attention wanders during the first fifty pages, do not give up. Collins went to the moon, okay? He knows what's up. So stick with him.

His account of the Gemini 10 flight is some of the most exciting writing I've ever read. Apollo 11 was also awesome, but lacked some of the sparkling wonder of Gemini.

Again, a great book. Loved it. Really. Read it!
Andrew Smith
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is such a fantastic book. Not only does Collins tell it like it is (or rather was), he writes beautifully and is such a personable narrator that I wished the thing could be twice as long as it is.
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Michael Collins is a former American astronaut and test pilot. Selected as part of the third group of fourteen astronauts in 1963, he flew in space twice. His first spaceflight was Gemini 10, in which he and command pilot John Young performed two rendezvous with
“I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it. If a count were taken, the score would be three billion plus two over on the other side of the moon, and one plus God knows what on this side.” 14 likes
“I am also planning to leave a lot of things undone. Part of life's mystery depends on future possibilities, and mystery is an elusive quality which evaporates when sampled frequently, to be followed by boredom. For example, catching various types of fish is on my list of good things to do, but I would be reluctant to rush into it, even if i had the time. I want no part of destroying fishing as a mysterious sport.” 5 likes
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