On July 20, 1969, American astronaut Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong and Bus Aldrin, who were lurking behind Apollo 11’s command line, became the first humans to travel to the lunar surface, and died on Wednesday at the age of 90, the family said.
According to his family, Collins died of cancer.
Collins, often described as the third “forgotten” astronaut in history, was alone for more than 21 hours until his two colleagues returned to the lunar orbit. Each time the spacecraft orbited the dark side of the moon he lost contact with mission control in Houston.
“Since Adam had no known loneliness like Mike Collins,” the mission record refers to the biblical image.
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Collins wrote about his experiences in his 1974 autobiography Carrying fire, But mostly deviated from advertising.
“If I say I have the best of the three Apollo 11 locations I know I’m a liar or an idiot, but I can honestly and equally say that I am fully satisfied with the one place I have,” Collins said in comments released by NASA in 2009.
Path to Collins’ Moon
Collins was born in Rome on October 31, 1930, the same year as Armstrong and Aldrin. He is the son of a U.S. Army Major General who, like his father, graduated in 1952 and studied at the U.S. Army Academy in West Point, NY.
Like the first generation of American astronauts, Collins began as an Air Force test pilot.
In 1963, he was selected by NASA for its astronaut program, in its early days, but at the height of the Cold War the United States advanced faster than the Soviet Union in an attempt to fulfill President John F. Kennedy’s promise. Lands a man on the moon at the end of the decade.
Wherever you are or wherever you are, you will always have the fire to take us neatly to new heights and into the future. We miss you. May you rest in peace. #Apollo11 pic.twitter.com/q4sJjFdvf8
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Collins’ first space flight came in July 1966 as a pilot on the Gemini X, part of the missions that produced NASA’s Apollo program. The Gemini X mission carried out successful docking with a separate target vehicle.
His second and final spacecraft was the historic Apollo 11.
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He avoided media enthusiasts who greeted the astronauts when they returned to Earth, and later criticized the cult of celebrities.
After a brief stint in government, Collins became director of the National Aeronautics and Space Museum, resigning in 1978. He is also the author of several books on space.
His strongest memory since Apollo 11 is looking back at Earth, which he said was “fragile.”
“If world political leaders can see their planet from 100,000 miles away, I hope they can fundamentally change their perspective. All important frontiers will be invisible, and that loud argument has calmed down,” he said.
His family statement said they knew “Mike felt how lucky he was to have lived the life he had.”
“Please join us in remembering his sharp ingenuity, his quiet purpose and his brilliant perspective, from looking back at the earth from space and observing the calm waters from the base of his fishing boat.”