lunar image of the month

july: return of the eagle

For a while during July 1969 Michael Collins was physically the most lonely person in the universe. While fellow Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin were making history as the first and second men on the Moon, Collins was alone in the Command Module, Columbia, orbiting some 110km (70 miles) above them and 376000km (23400 miles) from the rest of humanity. For almost half of each 2 hour orbit he was even out of radio contact. Despite a demanding programme of tasks to perform, it must have been a considerable relief when, as seen here, the ascent stage of the lunar module Eagle returned on July 21st.

The smooth, dark area visible on the Moon below is the Mare Smithii, which is on the extreme eastern edge of the Moon's disc as seen from the Earth, which in turn is visible in this image as the small blue semicircle.

Image: NASA.