Former NASA astronaut Michael Collins, who flew on the Gemini 10 and Apollo 11 missions, passed away today - April 28, 2021.
"Today the nation lost a true pioneer in astronaut Michael Collins. As the command module pilot of Apollo 11 - some called him 'the lone man in history' - while his colleagues walked on the moon for the first time, he enabled the US to achieve a landmark. He also distinguished himself in the Gemini program and as a US Air Force pilot.
"Michael promoted space exploration all his life. "Space exploration is not a choice, it's a must," he said as he contemplated orbit around the moon. "What would be more worthwhile if we meet some kind of extraterrestrial civilization and whether we go to other parts of the galaxy or not."
A statement issued by his family said, "Mike has always faced life's challenges with grace and humility, and faced every challenge even if it was his last. We will miss him terribly. However, we also know how lucky he was to live the way he did."
During the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, Collins remained in lunar orbit while other crew members Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to the lunar surface in the Lunar Module (Eagle). On July 20, they became the first people to set foot on the soil of another planetary body. Collins, circling at an altitude of 100 km above them, was almost forgotten as the world's attention focused on the two members of the crew who went down. But after the safe return of the crew, the 16 days of quarantine and tours that followed during which they were welcomed by millions of people. It became clear to even the most uncaring observer that it was a team of three.
The plaque left on the moon that said "We come in peace in the name of all mankind" was signed by Armstrong, Aldrin, Collins and President Richard M. Nixon.
Michael Collins was born on October 31, 1930 in Rome, Italy. He graduated from St. Albans School in Washington, D.C. and graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1952.
He chose a career in the Air Force. He was a fighter pilot and from 1959 to 1963 served as a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in California. He logged more than 4,200 flight hours.
Collins was a member of NASA's third group of astronauts, selected in October 1963. His first flight was as pilot of Gemini 10, a three-day mission launched on July 18, 1966.
The flight, under the command of John Young, set a height record. The rocket they flew on brought them to an altitude of about 700 kilometers. They later rendezvoused with a second Gemini spacecraft. Collins became the third American space king when he retrieved a micromaurit detection device from that Gemini.
Including the Apollo 11 mission, Collins logged 266 hours in space. He also served as the CAPCOM (cipher communicator) for Apollo 8, relaying information between mission control and the crew.
Collins retired from the Air Force as a general and left NASA in 1970 to become Assistant Secretary of State Kissinger. In 1971 he joined the Smithsonian Institution as director of the National Air and Space Museum. His responsibilities included the design and construction of a new museum building. The building was completed on time and on budget. It was opened to the public in 1976.
He was appointed vice president of LTV Aerospace and Defense Co. in 1980. He left the position in 1985 to start his own company. Since then he has also served as an independent consultant who writes and lectures on space.
He wrote several books: "Carrying the Fire" in 1974, "Fly to the Moon and Other Places" in 1976, "Liftoff: The Story of America's Adventure in Space" in 1988 and "Mission to Mars" in 1990.
More on the subject on the science website: