An astronaut who flew one of the most renowned space missions ever died. Michael Collins, 90, was on the Apollo 11, the first lunar landing flight in 1969, with the three-member crew. He never walked on the moon, unlike Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Collins remained behind and piloted the above command module. This is why Collins is often referred to as the ‘forgotten astronaut.’
Collins was fighting cancer. In a statement from his family, “He spent his last days peacefully, alongside his family. Mike always faced with grace and modesty the struggles of life, and in the same way faced his final challenge.”
The nation has lost a true visionary, NASA administrator Steve Jurczyk said, “NASA mourns the loss of this experienced pilot and astronaut, a friend of all seeking to push the human potential envelope. Whether behind the scenes or in clear sight, his legacy will always be one of the pioneers who have made the first steps in the Cosmos in America. And his presence will accompany us as we go forward.”
In 1969, President Nixon welcomed the Apollo 11 quarantine astronauts after their moon trip. Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin are the Apollo 11 crew from the Left.
When Neil Armstrong first entered the moon, saying, “Houston, quiet base here, the Eagle has landed, Collins was just as busy and happy, 60 miles above the moon, telling the Houston team he was listening to his comrades’ messages, and it was ‘fantastic.’
Aldrin and Armstrong were less than 22 hours on the lunar surface. The world has been changed. When you watch them bunny-hop, take photos and gather lunar samples during their brief single moonwalk. Throughout, Collins rounded the moon. Look at the stubborn lunar scenery and look back at the Earth. “The thing I recall most is from a very distance the view of planet Earth,” he said later. “Tiny. Tiny. Really shiny. Very shiny. Blue and white. Blue and white. Bright. Lovely. Frightening and delicate.”
As he orbited, half the time he could speak to controls, he was totally cut off on the back of the moon. This is why some people called him the loneliest individual in history. As he reminded in an interview with the NPR in 2016, he didn’t think so. He said, He said, “The fact that I was… out of touch, instead of terror, was a joy because I had Mission Control to shut down for a while. Each time in a while.”
“It is a shame that when we ask people, ‘You should call the crew of Apollo 11.’ Mike Collins is usually the name I don’t think of, “French Francis, space historian and author of several space programme books, said. “Because he was the keystone of the project in many respects. He really knew how to fly the solo spacecraft (the only one who flew a solo spacecraft during the whole mission) and the only one who was able to take all three home.”
“And if there was anything wrong with the lunar lander Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin,” the French said, “Michael Collins had a motor that could rendezvous and rescue them somewhere around the moon.”
Life Prior to Space
Mike Collins was born in Rome, Italy in the 1930s, where his father was the U.S. Army’s main general. Service and duty have been part of Collins throughout his life. He finished his studies at West Point at the U.S. Military Academy and later became a test pilot.
In 1963 NASA selected him as an astronaut and his first flight was on Gemini 10. He was the fourth person to lead a spacewalk on that trip.
As a kid, Collins dreamed of space. “He said, “Because I think Mars is more important, I used to joke that NASA sent me to the wrong location. It’s a place I’ve always read as a kid about.”
Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins was awarded by Vice President Al Gore with an aviation award at a ceremony at the National Air and Space Museum in 1999. The award was also awarded to the Apollo 11 fellow astronauts Neil Armstrong (left) and Buzz Aldrin. The 30th anniversary of the first moon landing was celebrated.
Life in space
Mars was also a place he wrote about as a grown-up. Collins wrote several books and one, Carrying the Fire, is the best autobiographies of all astronauts.
Apollo 11 was his last space flight and never missed the opportunity to step into the moon. “As an astronaut, I always felt I had the world’s best work and I still think,” he said, “but it was over for me.”
He said he’d always look up and see the moon and say, “‘Oh, my God! Oh, my God! I was there!’ I’ve been up, you see. After all these years, Kind of takes me by surprise.”
He called NASA’s tenure “a chapter in my life, the brightest chapter in my life—but not the only chapter.”
Collins reached the general rank. In 1970 he left NASA to enter the Department of State. Later, he was named director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Air and Space in Washington.
Collins didn’t slow down in his later years. He ran in triathlons, enjoyed fishing and even painted.
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