At the age of 90, Michael Collins, an astronaut who flew Apollo 11’s command module with his crewmates, became the first human to walk on the Moon.
The Collins family released a statement saying that the successful astronaut died after a “valiant battle with cancer”. They also stated that their loved ones would respect his wishes to celebrate rather than mourn his death.
Collins’ life is full of celebrations. He traveled from Rome, Italy to reach the far side the Moon in that historic week of July 1969, when human beings first set foot on another planet.
Collins was the only Apollo 11 member who didn’t land on the Moon. However, his contribution to the success of the mission was as important as the landing of the lunar module. Collins was the Columbia module’s pilot, and the Columbia module circled the Moon as Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong descended to the lunar surface in the Eagle Module. This took place over the course of the entire day-long surface mission.
Collins was disconnected from Earth radio contact and left to drift alone past the far side of the Moon every time Columbia passed by it. Collins claimed that he didn’t feel abandoned or lonely during these moments. However, a NASA interview stated that he did feel “a sense of solitude”.
He recalled the trips to the Moon and said, “I am alone now. I am truly alone. It is me. If you were to count, it would be three billion plus two on the other side of a moon and one plus God only knows what on this side.
Collins successfully met up with his crewmates after the surface mission was over. They were able to travel back together to Earth once they had returned. Collins would remember this mission and his first spaceflight on Gemini 8 with his crewmates for the rest his life.
According to NASA, Collins stated that “I believe that if political leaders could see their planet at a distance of 100,000 miles, their outlook could fundamentally change.” “The Earth must be as it appears now: blue and clear, not communist or capitalist; blue & white, rich or poor; and blue & white, not envy or envied.”
Collins was promoted to high-ranking positions in government, aerospace, and received numerous awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal. He was appointed as Assistant Secretary of State for Political Affairs by President Nixon and served until 1978 as director of the National Air and Space Museum.
Collins was also the author of several books and competed in triathlons. He also dabbled with watercolours. Collins had three children with Patricia Finnegan (who died in 2014).
His children and grandchildren stated that Collins passed peacefully with his family. They also invited his many admirers to join them in “fondly, joyfully, remembering his sharp intellect, quiet sense of purpose and wise perspective, which he gained from gazing out over calm waters from the deck his fishing boat and looking back at Earth through the vantage point of space.”