Be like Mike: Orbiting the moon 50 years ago

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The July 21, 1969 issue of The Columbia Missourian said this about Michael Collins, third astronaut joining Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong on the first landing on the moon:

"While the world breathlessly watched and listened for the moon walk by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Mike Collins cruised in orbit overhead. His job was to undertake emergency action if something went wrong, or to pick them up from the lunar module for the return to Earth if everything went right.

"His great achievement—his fondest hope—is to be triumphantly unnoticed."

It is easy to become discouraged when the lion's share of the attention falls on one or two. Some folks seem made for attention. They thrive on it—work better in the midst of it. But all the attention in the world wouldn't have helped Neil Armstrong get back to Earth if Michael Collins had decided to grab a little attention of his own and fly on home without him.

We need the Michael Collins of the world.

We need the Neil Armstrongs, too, but too often, while the Armstrongs are retelling their stories, the Collins of the world are still out there plugging along, doing their work, "triumphantly unnoticed."

Kind of like phenakite. The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago has a wonderful exhibit crammed in a corner on the third floor. The exhibit features gems and jewels from around the world, including one named phenakite.

Phenakite is actually more rare and more durable than diamonds, but you don't ever hear about it because it's not "flashy enough" to compete with diamonds. It's a Michael Collins to the Armstrong-like diamond.

Michael Collins wasn't flashy, and to this day, is the least known of the famous astronauts, but all three astronauts made it home, thanks to him.

Chances are, you're a lot like phenakite . . . you get the job done without a lot of fanfare, without a lot of flash. And, though it may not always be fun to be "unnoticed," how lost the world would be without you.

Sometimes, we forget that. Sometimes, we forget how important the little things we do every day are. I tell the 4-H story, and though it's important to acknowledge the amazing accomplishments of those who, on a certain day, with a certain exhibit, were named "winner," it's just as important to celebrate all the others who tried their best and went home without a trophy.

If your show season found you outside the winner's circle, don't be discouraged. We are proud of you. I am proud of you, and you can be sure that your efforts, your positive actions, and your graceful poise were noticed.

Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. And, today we announce that in 2020, Illinois 4-H will launch a 4-H satellite into space. More details will come soon, but the world is too small to keep 4-H earthbound! There will be opportunities locally for 4-H members to be a part of our "4-H in Space" adventure.



Judy Mae Bingman, University of Illinois Extension Marketing and Communications Manager

Judy uses powerful words and photography to tell the Extension story. She is a skilled communication strategist and storyteller with demonstrated success in building teams and creating strong organizational brand identities that deepen Extension’s impact among key audiences, build brand loyalty, strengthen employee talent, and expand public engagement. She is a frequent conference presenter at the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents Conference and helps Extension staff across the nation tell compelling stories.