Michael Collins, an astronaut who in 1969 was a part of the mission that brought humans to the moon for the first time has died, according to a statement from his family. He was 90.
According to the statement, Collins died Wednesday after a “valiant battle with cancer.”
Collins was one of three astronauts who manned the Apollo 11 mission — the first mission to take men to the moon. While Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to walk on the surface of the moon, Collins remained in the Columbia command module and piloted the capsule in orbit, waiting for his partners to return.
Family Statement on Passing of Astronaut Michael Collins pic.twitter.com/6OAw7CzFaz— Michael Collins (@AstroMCollins) April 28, 2021
Collins’ role in the Apollo 11 mission was essential. His flight expertise allowed him to conduct several key docking maneuvers that helped the crew land on the moon and safely return.
While Collins never got to walk on the moon, he always maintained a good sense of humor about his place in history.
“I had this beautiful little domain,” Collins told the New York Times in 2019 of his time alone during Apollo 11. “It was all mine. I was the emperor, the captain of it, and it was quite commodious. I had warm coffee, even.”
According to NASA, Collins logged a total of 266 hours in space.
“Mike always faced the challenges of life with grace and humility, and faced this, his final challenge, in the same way. We will miss him terribly,” the family statement read. “…Please join us in fondly and joyfully remembering his sharp wit, his quiet sense of purpose, and his wise perspective, gained both from looking back at Earth from the vantage of space and gazing across calm waters from the deck of his fishing boat.”
Aldrin, the only Apollo 11 astronaut still living, tweeted a remembrance of Collins on Wednesday afternoon.
"Wherever you have been or will be, you will always have the Fire to Carry us deftly to new heights and to the future," Aldrin wrote. "We will miss you."
Dear Mike,— Dr. Buzz Aldrin (@TheRealBuzz) April 28, 2021
Wherever you have been or will be, you will always have the Fire to Carry us deftly to new heights and to the future. We will miss you. May you Rest In Peace. #Apollo11 pic.twitter.com/q4sJjFdvf8
President Joe Biden released this statement regarding the passing of Collins:
"Michael Collins lived a life of service to our country. From his time in the Air Force, to his career with NASA, to his service at the State Department, to his leadership of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum; Michael Collins both wrote and helped tell the story of our nation’s remarkable accomplishments in space.
Many remember him as the astronaut who was by himself, orbiting the Moon as Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong walked on the lunar surface. He may not have received equal glory, but he was an equal partner, reminding our nation about the importance of collaboration in service of great goals. From his vantage point high above the Earth, he reminded us of the fragility of our own planet, and called on us to care for it like the treasure it is.
Although, in his life of accomplishment, he earned many titles and achieved the rank of general, he demanded that everyone call him, simply, Mike.
Our prayers are with General Collins’ family. Godspeed, Mike."