Apollo 11 astronaut returns to launch pad 50 years after blast off

The man who never made it to the moon, but played an integral part in the mission, has spoken about his trip to space on the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings.

Michael Collins, 88, was the pilot of the command module.

He recalled the Apollo 11 mission as he spoke at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

He returned to the launchpad of the original mission for the talk, marking the precise moment - 9:32 a.m. on July 16, 1969 - that their Saturn V rocket departed on humanity's first moon landing.

Despite going to Space, Mr Collins never made it to the Moon. Whilst his colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to land on the rock, he orbited it. His mission was to ensure the pair were safely able to return to Earth after their mission was complete.

Collins went to Space in 1969, but never stepped on the Moon. Credit: NASA

The time alone in the capsule has led to him being dubbed the Solar System's loneliest man. But despite the moniker, he insists he was too busy and focused on his mission to be lonely.

Speaking on the 50th anniversary, he said: "I was always asked, wasn't I the loneliest person in the whole lonely history of the whole lonely solar system when I was by myself in that lonely orbit?

"And the answer was no, I felt fine.

"I've been flying airplanes by myself, that was being aloft in a vehicle was no novelty. I trusted my surroundings. I was very happy to be where I was and to see this this complicated mission unfold.

"But the time I was by myself was enjoyable. I had coffee, I had music if I wanted it."

Speaking about fellow astronaut and mission captain, Neil Armstrong, he said: "I think Neil was the perfect choice" to become the first man on the moon.

"He would have the audience just feeling like they had almost crawled aboard Columbia with us by the time he was through with his speech. He was wonderful in that regard.

Men first went to the Moon in 1969. Credit: NASA

Speaking about ambitions to go to the Moon again, he said: "I'd like to transfer that spirit from from where we are to where we might go and I would propose going direct to Mars."

The event, which was broadcast on NASA TV, kicks off a week of celebrations marking each day of Apollo 11's eight-day voyage.