Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins Dies At 90

NASA astronaut Michael Collins, one of three astronauts on the historic Apollo 11 Moon mission, died Wednesday at age 90 after a bout with cancer.

“We regret to share that our beloved father and grandfather passed away today, after a valiant battle with cancer. He spent his final days peacefully, with his family by his side,” Collins’ family wrote in a statement posted on his Twitter. 

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“Mike always faced the challenges of life with grace and humility, and faced this, his final challenge, in the same way.”

“We will miss him terribly. Yet we also know how lucky Mike felt to have lived the life he did. We will honor his wish for us to celebrate, not mourn, that life,” they continued. 

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His family also sought for privacy, although they committed to releasing the details on Collins’ memorial services later on.

“Please join us in fondly and joyfully remembering his sharp wit, his quiet sense of purpose, and his wise perspective, gained both from looking back at Earth from the vantage of space and gazing across calm waters from the deck of his fishing boat,” they added.

Collins, who was born in Rome, flew as one of the three astronauts on the famous Apollo 11 mission in July 1969 — the spaceflight that first landed humans on the moon. 

Although he never got to walk on the moon unlike his fellow crew members Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, who became the first humans to set foot on the lunar surface, Collins’ served as the command module pilot of the mission, remaining in lunar orbit while his crew mates made the first crewed landing on its surface. 

He was often referred to as the “forgotten astronaut” but also hailed as a “true pioneer” of space exploration.

“As I look back on Apollo 11, I more and more am attracted to my recollection, not of the moon, but of the Earth from a great distance,” Collins later said in an interview with NPR. “Tiny. Very shiny. Blue and white. Bright. Beautiful. Serene and fragile in its little black velvet background.

That time, he logged 266 hours in space, of which 1 hour and 27 minutes were spent in Extravehicular activity (EVA) — and became the third American to perform a spacewalk.

NASA later on posted about Collins’ death on its own social media page.

“We mourn the passing of Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, who piloted humanity’s first voyage to the surface of another world,” NASA wrote on Twitter.

“An advocate for exploration, @AstroMCollins inspired generations and his legacy propels us further into the cosmos.”

Collins graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point and later on joined the US Air Force to become a fighter pilot and an experimental test pilot at the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California where he reportedly served for four years from 1959logging more than 4,200 hours of flying time.

He was later on conferred a major general rank.

Reports said NASA chose Collins as an astronaut in October 1963 and his first flight was aboard Gemini 10 in July 1966, where he became the fourth human to conduct a spacewalk.

His second space flight was already the famous Apollo 11 mission.

Collins departed NASA a year after the successful mission in January 1970 and went on to become Assistant Secretary of State for public affairs. He would later on join the Smithsonian Institution as director of the National Air and Space Museum. He also became the vice president of the LTV Aerospace and Defense Company before starting his own firm.

Though frequently asked if he regretted not landing on the moon, Collins admitted that doing so was never an option for him on Apollo 11 where he compared his job as a command module pilot as a “being the base-camp operator on a mountain climbing expedition.”

“I know that I would be a liar or a fool if I said that I have the best of the three Apollo 11 seats, but I can say with truth and equanimity that I am perfectly satisfied with the one I have,” he wrote in his 1974 autobiography, “Carrying the Fire.” 

“This venture has been structured for three men, and I consider my third to be as necessary as either of the other two.”

Collins also wrote several books aside from his 1974 “Carrying the Fire” — including “Flying to the Moon and Other Strange Places” in 1976 and “Liftoff: The Story of America’s Adventure in Space” in 1988.

In a 1994 preface to his “Flying to the Moon” book, Collins said: “I am too old to fly to Mars, and I regret that. But I still think I have been very, very lucky.”

“I was born in the days of biplanes and Buck Rogers, learned to fly in the early jets, and hit my peak when moon rockets came along. That’s hard to beat.”

In one of his last social media posts, the 90-year-old astronaut, residing in Florida wrote: “I am certain, if everyone could see the Earth floating just outside their windows, every day would be #EarthDay,” Collins wrote on April 22.

“There are few things more fragile or more beautiful than Earth, let’s work together today and everyday to protect our home,” he added.

Meanwhile, his fellow Apollo 11 astronaut, Buzz Aldrin penned a message for Collins shortly after his passing was announced.

“Dear Mike, wherever you have been or will be, you will always have the Fire to Carry us deftly to new heights and to the future.  We will miss you. May you Rest In Peace. #Apollo11.”

Steeve Strange

Steeve is the CEO & Co-Founder of The Scoop.

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