The astronaut Michael Collins, pilot of the Apollo 11 mission’s command module, who saw the first man, Neil Armstrong, walk on the Moon, died on Wednesday 28 April at the age of 90.
Michael Collins died from cancer almost 52 years after the historic mission, during which, on 20 July 1969, Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed in the Sea of Tranquillity on board the lunar module “The Eagle” before walking on the surface of the Earth’s satellite.
Collins, as pilot of the command and service module, had waited in orbit around the Moon for the other two astronauts to join him before returning to Earth.
“Today, the nation has lost a real pioneer and a lifelong advocate of exploration,” declared NASA’s interim administrator, Steve Jurczyk, when Collins’ death was announced. “As pilot of Apollo 11’s command module (…) while his colleagues walked on the Moon for the first time, he helped our nation set a key milestone,” he added.
Born on 31 October 1930 in Rome, where his father was a military diplomat, he started his career as a test pilot in the American Air Force. In 1963, he joined the American space agency, NASA. On the occasion of his first mission in space, Gemini 10 with astronaut John Young, he carried out two rendezvous with target satellites and carried out two space walks, becoming the third American to walk in space.
As Neil Armstrong died in 2012, Buzz Aldrin is now the only survivor of Apollo 11. This moon mission was followed by five others, which, it should be noted, brought back 382 kilos of moon rocks to Earth.