NASA has lost one of its legends. Astronaut Michael Collins, the pilot of the famed Apollo 11 mission, has passed away at age 90. Collins passed away on Wednesday, April 28th.
The former astronaut reportedly battled cancer. In a statement to NPR, his family confirmed his passing. They wrote, “He spent his final days peacefully, with his family by his side. Mike always faced the challenges of life with grace and humility, and faced this, his final challenge in the same way.”
Collins was part of the three-man mission to the Moon in 1969. It was the first lunar landing in history and captivated the world. Unlike his fellow astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Collins never got to walk on the moon. He piloted the command module, ensuring the safe return of his crew.
As a result, Collins never gained the fame that the other two astronauts did. Some referred to him as the “forgotten astronaut” as a result.
“The thing I remember most is the view of planet Earth from a great distance,” Collins said later. “Tiny. Very shiny. Blue and white. Bright. Beautiful. Serene and fragile.”
Michael Collins’ Life and Career
Michael Collins was born in 1930 in Rome, Italy. He attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and later became a test pilot for the Air Force. In 1963, he crossed paths with NASA, joining the Gemini 10 mission. He became only the fourth person in history to conduct a spacewalk.
Collins always dreamed of going to space.
“I used to joke that NASA sent me to the wrong place, to the moon,” he said, “because I think Mars is a more interesting place. It’s a place I always read about as a child.”
Apollo 11 ended up being his last trip to space. But beyond the stars remained a fascination for Collins. Later he wrote about outer space, authoring several books. He even wrote an autobiography about his experiences called “Carrying the Fire.”
“As an astronaut, I always thought I had the best job in the world and I still think that,” he said, “but for me when it was over it was over.”
Besides his work in NASA, Collins also achieved the rank of major general. He went to work for the State Department and later returned to his passion for space. He joined the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum as its director.
As for hobbies, he enjoyed the outdoors such as fishing and also painting. Collins will always be remembered for his contributions to human history. And for that, he will never be forgotten.