Fuelling the Modern Man

There’s a special reason why this is the most poignant photo ever taken

It was taken by Michael Collins in 1969 and is completely unique.

Josh Butler
Published 21st November 2016

This photograph of the Lunar Module coming in to land on The Moon, with the Earth serving as a dramatic backdrop, was taken in 1969 and remains probably the most significant image ever taken.

It was taken by Michael Collins during the successful Apollo 11 mission and, in taking it, he became the sole member of a very exclusive club. Probably the most exclusive club in the entire of the known Universe.

For, with Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong piloting the Lunar Module, and with Earth and its (then) 3 billion inhabitants at the background, Michael Collins became the only human to have ever lived that didn’t appear in this photo.


Because matter cannot be created or destroyed, every human ever born, every human living at that moment, and every human yet to be born, exists in some form of matter in that very photograph. Except Michael Collins.

Which makes him the perhaps loneliest human in existence.

As Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first to make a manned landing on the surface of the moon, Collins waited in the command module for over 21 hours for their return.


During this time, the Lunar Module drifted behind The Moon, severing all communication with Earth, legitimately rendering Collins the most isolated human being in the Solar System – and beyond.

“Radio contact with the Earth abruptly cuts off at the instant I disappear behind the moon; 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.”

Fortunately, as we all know (unless you’re one of those mental Moon Landing conspirators), the trio were reunited and returned to Earth safely.


But for those interminable hours aboard the Lunar Module, Michael Collins was utterly alone. And the photograph he took is a sobering reminder of how small we are in the grand scheme of the Universe.