© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former astronaut Collins speaks at the 40th anniversary of the Washington Moonwalk
By Rosalba O’Brien
(Reuters) – US astronaut Michael Collins, who remained in the Apollo 11 command module on July 20, 1969, while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin traveled to the lunar surface to become the first humans to walk on the moon, died Wednesday. at 90, his family said.
A statement released by his family said Collins died of cancer.
Often described as the historic third ‘forgotten’ astronaut on the historic mission, Collins was left alone for over 21 hours until his two colleagues returned to the lunar module. He lost contact with mission control in Houston every time the spacecraft circled the dark side of the moon.
“Since Adam, no human has known such loneliness like Mike Collins,” the mission journal said, referring to the Biblical figure.
Collins wrote an account of his experiences in his 1974 autobiography, “Carrying the Fire,” but largely avoided publicity.
“I know I would be a liar or a jerk if I said I have the best of the three Apollo 11 seats, but I can say with truth and equanimity that I am perfectly satisfied with the one I have,” Collins said. in comments published by NASA in 2009.
Collins was born in Rome on October 31, 1930 – the same year as Armstrong and Aldrin. He was the son of a major general in the United States Army and, like his father, attended the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, where he graduated in 1952.
Like many first-generation American astronauts, Collins started out as an Air Force test pilot.
In 1963, it was chosen by NASA for its astronaut program, still in its infancy, but which accelerated rapidly during the height of the Cold War as the United States sought to overtake the Soviet Union and to fulfill President John F.’s pledge to land a man on the moon at the end of the decade.
Collins’ first trip to space took place in July 1966 as a pilot on Gemini X, part of the missions that prepared NASA’s Apollo program. The Gemini X mission successfully docked with a separate target vehicle.
Its second and last space flight was the historic Apollo 11.
He avoided much of the media fanfare that greeted the astronauts upon their return to Earth, and then often criticized the cult of celebrity.
After a brief stint in government, Collins became director of the National Air and Space Museum, resigning in 1978. He was also the author of a number of books on space.
His strongest memory of Apollo 11, he said, was looking at Earth, which he said looked “fragile.”
“I truly believe that if the world’s political leaders could see their planet from a distance of 100,000 miles, their outlook could be fundamentally altered. This very important frontier would be invisible, this loud argument silenced,” he said. declared.
His family’s statement said they knew “how lucky Mike was to live the life he did”.
“Please join us in lovingly and happily remembering her quick wit, calm sense of purpose, and wise prospect, gained both by looking at Earth from space and looking at the waters. calm from the deck of his fishing boat.