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Michael Collins was an astronaut who piloted the command module during the Apollo 11 mission passed away. Sadly at the age of 90, he died on April 28, 2021. His death was announced by his family members.
His family said that Collins “passed away… after a valiant battle with cancer.” They went on to say that he was able to spend “his final days peacefully, with his family by his side.”
The astronaut was born on Oct. 31, 1930, in Rome, Italy. After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point — New York — he transferred to the Air Force. Collins became a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
In 1963, he joined the space program. On July 18, 1966, command pilot John W. Young and Collins launched into space aboard the Gemini 10. The two men rendezvous with an Agena target vehicle. They used the engines of the Agena to propel them to a record altitude — 764 km which equals 475 miles.
Once they reached the record height, Collins left the spacecraft to remove equipment used for a micrometeorite experiment. This was located in the aft end of the Gemini. He then tried — but failed — to attach similar equipment to the Agena.
Collins was able to retrieve an instrument from the Agena. However, he was unable to do more due to the Gemini running low on fuel. They returned to Earth on July 21, 1966.
The next mission Collins participated in was Apollo 11. He along with commander Neil A. Armstrong and lunar module pilot Edwin E. Aldrin launched into space on July 16, 1969. Collins remained in the command module — Columbia — when Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the Moon in the lunar module Eagle.
The Eagle landed on the Moon on July 20 and did not join the Columbia again until the next day. On July 22, the astronauts left the lunar orbit. The crew splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969.
In 1970, Collins retired from NASA. He then became the director of the National Air and Space Museum. The retired astronaut also served as the undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
Many people took to Twitter to pay their respects and to share memories of Collins. He is survived by his children, grandchildren, and various friends and family. May he rest in peace.
Written by Sheena Robertson
NBC News: Michael Collins, Apollo 11 astronaut, dies at 90; by Denise Chow
Britannica: Micheal Collins American astronaut
Featured and Top Image by NASA/Frank Michaux Courtesy of NASA Kennedy’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License