UNITED STATES. Washington D.C: NASA astronaut Michael Collins, who participated in the Apollo 11 moon-landing mission has died at 90 on Wednesday due to cancer. Collins launched toward the moon with fellow astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on 19 July 1969. While his crewmates became the first people to walk on the lunar surface, Collins piloted the Command Module Columbia that would carry the three of them back to Earth.
NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk states the passing of Michael Collins: “Today the nation lost a true pioneer and lifelong advocate for exploration in astronaut Michael Collins. As pilot of the Apollo 11 command module – some called him ‘the loneliest man in history’ – while his colleagues walked on the Moon for the first time, he helped our nation achieve a defining milestone. He also distinguished himself in the Gemini Program and as an Air Force pilot.”
Apollo 11 mission
Apollo 11 mission was the first human flight mission to land on the moon. During the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, Collins remained in lunar orbit while fellow crewmembers Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to the moon’s surface in the lunar module. On July 20, they became the first men to step onto the surface of another planetary body. Collins, orbiting 65 miles above them, was momentarily almost forgotten as the world’s attention focused on his two crewmates below. But after the crew’s safe return, their 16 days in quarantine, and the tours afterward that brought millions to welcome them home, it became clear to even the most uncaring observer that this was very much a three-man crew. The plaque left on the moon that said, “We came in peace for all mankind,” was signed by Armstrong, Aldrin, Collins, and President Richard M. Nixon.
A short biography
Michael Collins was born on Oct. 31, 1930, in Rome, Italy. He graduated from Saint Albans School in Washington, D.C., and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1952. He chose an Air Force career and became a fighter pilot. From 1959 to 1963, he served as a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in California. He logged more than 4,200 hours of flying time. NASA selected him to be an astronaut in 1963, in its third astronaut class. Including the Apollo 11 mission, Collins logged 266 hours in space. He also served as CAPCOM (CAPsule COMmunicator) for Apollo 8, relaying information between mission control and the crew.
Collins was awarded honorary degrees from six universities. Decorations and awards he received included the Presidential Medal for Freedom, the Robert J. Collier Trophy, the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy, and the Harmon International Trophy.
American President Joe Biden in his official statement said, “Many remember him as the astronaut who was by himself, orbiting the Moon as Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong walked on the lunar surface. He may not have received equal glory, but he was an equal partner, reminding our nation about the importance of collaboration in service of great goals. From his vantage point high above the Earth, he reminded us of the fragility of our own planet, and called on us to care for it like the treasure it is.”