–Apollo 8. You are Go for TLI. Over.
Michael Collins He broadcast this phrase to the crew of Apollo 8 from Mission Control in Houston on December 21, 1968, when 2 hours, 27 minutes and 22 seconds had elapsed since launch. For anyone who was unaware of flight operations in the program Apollo, the meaning of the message could go perfectly unnoticed as one more among many other operational exchanges dotted by dark acronyms that dominated the communications between land and Apollo 8. But who understood what those communications meant, knew that the phrase that heads this article was, without a doubt, one of the most transcendent that has ever been enunciated, not only in the history of explorations and discoveries, but in the history of The humanity.
The command and service module of the Apollo 8 it was still linked to the third stage of the Saturn V rocket, the S-IVB, and the whole was in orbit around the Earth waiting to receive confirmation from Houston to proceed to the Translunar Injection, Trans-Lunar Injection, or TLI, the ignition of several minutes with which the engine of the S-IVB stage would propel the first humans to the Moon "all the way", In what Michael Collins called" the umbilical cord cut ".
Michael Collins had been part of the titular crew of the Apollo 8 along with Frank Borman and Bill Anders, but an unexpected surgical intervention in July 68 caused Jim Lovell to take his place and he became a member of the alternate crew, one in which fate had placed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. If the future did not become capricious, the Borman-Lovell-Anders crew would soon be the first to leave Earth to go to another world while the rotation of flights would place the Armstrong-Collins-Aldrin crew as the owner of the Apollo 11 in the mission in which human beings would step on another world for the first time.
The missions Apollo 8 Y eleven they have a historical significance whose scope can be understood by supposing the principle of the emancipation of the human being from his world of origin, but each of them stands out with prominence in history with nuances that may not be obvious in a first approximation. The Apollo 11 has always captured media attention to a much greater extent than the Apollo 8 and its historical relevance is perceived above that of the latter in an unquestionable way. However, Michael Collins was never part of this vision. Who was on the threshold of participating in the Apollo 8 and ended up being pilot of the command module in the Apollo 11, he appreciated that the Apollo 8 It harbored the deeper historical significance of the two.
In several shifts throughout the more than six days of the mission of the Apollo 8, Michael Collins served as Capcom, the position in the Control of the Mission through which the voice communications are channeled with the crew to avoid that it is immersed in the constant traffic of messages that takes place on the ground. The launch, the short orbital stay, the TLI and the separation of the command and service module from the S-IVB stage were the milestones that covered the first six and a half hours of flight in which Collins served as Capcom, milestones among which highlighted the TLI in a unique way. Once all the systems in the orbit were assessed on the ground to verify that they had survived the rigors of the powerful Saturn V launch, Michael Collins was the one who informed the crew that You are Go for TLI with which Borman, Lovell and Anders were informed that they had the approval to leave Earth, that everything was in order to proceed to become the first human beings to leave their world of origin.
The phrase that heads this article was, without a doubt, one of the most transcendent that has been enunciated never, not only in the history of the explorations and the discoveries, but in the history of the humanity
That cryptic You are Go for TLI that Michael Collins pronounced was one of those aseptic operative messages that hid deep human meanings that were repeatedly given throughout the program Apollo. Michael Collins thought that You are Go for TLI that was transmitted for the first time contained a meaning whose scope went far beyond an operational announcement in another space mission. The Apollo 8 He went to the Moon, detaching a small group of human beings, his companions Borman, Lovell and Anders, from the gravitational influence of their world of origin, cutting the umbilical cord with which every living being had been attached until that moment. place of the Cosmos in which it had evolved for billions of years.
After the TLI, the crew of the Apollo 8 would be lost in space, in the mare tenebrosum of our time, it would move away from the Earth, becoming totally detached from it and end up being trapped by the influence of another world. When he pronounced it, Michael Collins was aware of what his phrase meant and that moment on December 21, 1968, of which half a century has already passed. He was aware of the transcendence of what was happening, a transcendence that for him did not reside so much in the fact of addressing another world as in abandoning one's own.
Michael Collins appreciated in the Apollo 8 a historical epic more relevant and transcendent than that of eleven in which he later participated. Everyone could think otherwise, the press and public opinion might not consider him as he, perhaps even historians have not yet considered it; but 8, although he never had the goal of stepping on another world, he had the sense to leave, to abandon completely the home, the place of origin, the cradle; Meanwhile he eleven it had him reach another place, to print the first human footprint on a virgin celestial body, and for Michael Collins it had a deeper meaning to depart than to arrive.
You could reach many places, the future of the human being might be filled with a multitude of worlds destined to be places to reach … in our solar system, perhaps even in other star systems, who knows if in other galaxies in a future that, to get to be given, nobody will surely see in many generations. But only the disengagement, the abandonment, the departure, was unique. Only the departure could have a first time. Only the departure was conceptually unrepeatable.
Michael Collins thought that the occasion of which we celebrate now the 50th anniversary, represented one of those remarkable moments that define the human spirit in its search and exploration as a species, marking now the sublime milestone of breaking the bonds of the world in which His whole existence had taken place. As in a few other select moments in the history of human exploration, in that one lived in the Apollo 8, the most epic moment for him, Michael Collins thought that human beings faced the challenge of confronting the unknown again and decided to accept it as others did with an exploratory spirit when they entered a bit more than their peers in the savanna, as when a few left Africa tens of thousands of years ago to conquer the world, as when others crossed peaks of perpetual snow, impossible water courses or endless oceans to reach new lands, or as when others crossed deserts of ice to conquer the poles of the world. Again in the Apollo 8, human beings shaped the fate of their species by deciding to face the uncertainty of an immediate future full of risks, moved by an exploratory instinct whose magnitude can only vanish when the analysis of the historical fact is limited to the context of the most immediate reasons that motivated, but that is raised in the immortality of the great exploits of human exploration when attention is paid to its ultimate reality, to which its attempt to challenge the environment and undertake the search, the solitary reality of three men who they had before them the option of staying or leaving, and decided to leave
–Roger. We understand, we are Go for TLI…
Eduardo García Llama is a physicist and engineer in space operations at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston @EGarciaLlama