July 11th: Apollo 11 Through the Eyes of a Young Girl


365daysDate: July 11, 2009

Title: Apollo 11 Through the Eyes of a Young Girl


Podcaster: Nancy Atkinson

Links: Universe Today, Astronomy Cast, Solar System Ambassador program

Description: As we approach the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, many people are reminiscing about what happened back in 1969. Nancy shares her remembrances as well as song she wrote about the event, as seen through the eyes of a young girl. Nancy would like to extend special thanks to Jim Feldman for recording and mixing the song.

Bio: Nancy Atkinson is the senior editor for Universe Today, is on the production team for Astronomy Cast, and is part of the IYA New Media Working Group, helping to bring the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast to you every day of 2009. She also is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Today’s sponsor: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is sponsored by eleventhirtyfour.net, clothing for nerds and skeptics.


Hi, this is Nancy Atkinson, writer for Universe Today.com. What were you doing in mid-July 1969? As I’m sure you know, we’re about to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. If you were born before that time when we first sent humans to moon and returned them safely to Earth, you likely have a memory of where you were and what you were doing when Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins went to the Moon.

I was pretty young, but I remember sitting in front of the television with my sister for almost the entire mission. We were glued there, listening to the commentators every word. I also remember getting an Apollo 11 t-shirt with a picture of the moon and an eagle carrying a flag to the surface, and it was one of my most favorite things to wear.

July of 1969 was truly a momentous and inspirational time.

And if you’ve heard any of my previous podcasts, you probably know what’s coming next. Yeah, I’ve got another song.

This song is one I wrote a few years ago, and it is a retrospective, if not whimsical look at the Apollo 11 mission through the eyes of a young girl. I was inspired to write it after reading a children’s book about Apollo 11 called “The Man Who Went to the Far Side of the Moon: The Story of Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins” by Bea Uusma Schyffert.

It’s a wonderful book that includes lots of fascinating facts, quotes, checklists, original drawings, and pictures taken both in space and on Earth. It tells how the astronauts prepared for their journey, what they brought with them, and the things they left behind on the Moon. It focuses on Michael Collins and what he did, and what he saw, and the things he thought about in space.

The book brought me back to that time, and how I sat in front of the TV. I don’t remember exactly what I was thinking or the questions I had, but I’m sure there was a lot going on inside my little head, and likely, that event was part of what brought me to where I am today.

I know a lot of people have their own stories of Apollo 11, and I’m grateful to be able to tell mine.
And I’d like to congratulate everyone who worked on the Apollo program, and especially Mike Collins, for their absolutely incredible and inspirational accomplishment.

Who Flies the Ship When Mike Collins Goes to Sleep?

When I was a young girl, I wanted to travel far,
I didn’t like to go to sleep, I was afraid of the dark, but I loved to gaze at the stars.

I remember when one day three men went and traveled far.
Not quite to the stars, they went to the moon,
To see if it could be done.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took the Eagle down to the moon
While Mike Collins stayed in orbit alone to the far side of the moon
No one knew if this would be a giant leap for all mankind
Would the computers fail, would they have enough fuel,
and if they landed what would they find?
But while the whole world and Houston held their breath,
I had something else on my mind….

Hey tell me who flies the ship when Mike Collins goes to sleep,
And won’t he get all lonesome by himself?
Will he have a nightlight when its bedtime at the moon,
And what happens if he sees somebody else?

Well, Neil and Buzz, they landed just fine in the Sea of Tranquility.
They planted the flag and collected rocks and back on Earth we watched it on TV.
Surfing channels was easy back then with just 3 stations, you know.
But in July of ’69 it didn’t really matter ‘cuz they all had on the same show.
So Jules Bergman, Walt Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley
Please tell me ‘cuz I gotta know….


I know everyone remembers the first two men who walked on the moon,
But my hero has always been Mike Collins
The man who went to the far side of the Moon.
All told Apollo flew 11 times with pilots of the command module
Some didn’t have to orbit alone but they all did their job well.
And while it seems that those who walked on the moon got all the glory
Without their pilot who would bring them home?

Hey tell me who flies the ship when the CM pilot goes to sleep,
And won’t he get all lonesome by himself?
Will he have a nightlight when its bedtime at the moon,
And what happens if he sees somebody else?

Hey tell me who flies the ship when Mike Collins goes to sleep,
And won’t he get all lonesome by himself?
Will he have a nightlight when its bedtime at the moon,
And what happens if he sees somebody else?

Copyright 2005 Nancy Atkinson

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by the New Media Working Group of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. Audio post-production by Preston Gibson. Bandwidth donated by libsyn.com and wizzard media. Web design by Clockwork Active Media Systems. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at 365DaysOfAstronomy.org or email us at info@365DaysOfAstronomy.org. Until tomorrow…goodbye.

, , , ,

9 Responses to July 11th: Apollo 11 Through the Eyes of a Young Girl

  1. Pat Brennan July 12, 2009 at 12:43 pm #

    Hey thats great!!

  2. Michael L July 12, 2009 at 10:22 pm #

    Excellent! I’ve often wondered about Michael Collins being totally cut off from Earth for the 20 or 30 minutes he was over the far side of the Moon. What must it be like? For those minutes, you are totally alone. Cut off from your home world, for that brief time, you are alone… totally alone. Wow.

  3. Brian Sheen July 13, 2009 at 3:39 am #

    Thanks for that poem – I will use it for my Celebrations too. With acknowledgement – I only hope I “Don’t sing out of tune”

    Brian Sheen.

  4. Benudhar July 13, 2009 at 4:39 am #

    Hi you are very Lucky.

  5. Dan Tillmanns July 14, 2009 at 5:16 am #

    Mom and I sat looking out our big window with the TV on.
    However, the one that impressed me the most was Apollo 8.
    The astronauts read, “In the beginning, , ,” as the moon glided by below them.

  6. Gary Timothy July 14, 2009 at 5:13 pm #

    What an absolutely enchanting piece, Nancy! It sent chills up my spine as I listened and remembered that historic day in ’69 for myself – I was 15 at the time and already a hardcore science nut, and I knew that I was watching the most fantastic adventure of mankind ever!

    This is the first time I’ve heard you sing – I’ve only got dial-up so I don’t download too many files above a few megs – but thanks for sharing your talent with us!! And, inspiring/helping me to relive the most exciting time of my life!

  7. Gary Timothy July 14, 2009 at 5:16 pm #

    Oh, and by the way,… who DID fly the ship when Mike Collins went to sleep? 🙂

  8. bernard marshall July 16, 2009 at 5:27 pm #

    I liked the charm of isolation in you poem..I submit mine I wrote to describe the energy and can do atitude of 1969…

    Bernard Marshall
    Wimbledon England

    The day Earth shined bright – 20 July 1969

    When down that ladder Armstrong came
    and paused before that step of fame
    we held our breath a moment deep
    before mankind would take that leap

    What did you feel that July night
    as witness to that unique sight
    when TV beamed mans giant leap
    back home to us on sofa seat

    It was unreal – to share this sight
    and to compare grandparents “flight”
    when cars and the electric light
    had first appeared – with Brothers’ Wright

    And now few decades from that start
    Apollo used 5 million moving parts
    to reach this dream for man so bright
    with “Can do” spirit at its height

    Unreal and real with no big tears
    as Sixties man raced through his fears
    of change which flew in his story
    and moved his spirit – you and me

    And with the moon now in our sight
    there rose a Sixties joy so bright
    Beach Boys – Beatles music everywhere
    – creative tumult in the air

    Who can forget that sharp new feel
    when flower power was the fresh appeal
    to universal youth and high ideal
    when Sgt Pepper and a Whiter shade of pale were real

    And this great Transatlantic energy
    which moved a Mayflower and a Kennedy
    to build this land where man was free
    now led mankind to this new peak of liberty

    Now as we shared this TV sight
    and man walked on the moon that night
    we saw a new discovery
    our Earthrise in great majesty

    (PS After writing this and walking out into the sunny street -Serendipity!
    A Ford Mustang drives by with 4 smiling faces open top and free
    flying the biggest Stars and Stripes that one could see
    on Princes Way to Wimbledon and right in front of me)

    Bernard – 4 July 2009


  1. Was He Lonesome Above the Moon? | A Sky Full of Stars - July 16, 2014

    […] http://cosmoquest.org/x/365daysofastronomy/2009/07/11/july-11th-apollo-11-through-the-eyes-of-a-youn… […]

Leave a Reply