Michael Collins, one of the three astronauts on board the historic Apollo 11 spacecraft, made his first lunar landing mission in 1969, dying of cancer at the age of 90 this Wednesday.
In a statement released by his family, Collins said he was battling cancer.
“He spent his last days at his side relaxed and with his family. Mike always faced life’s challenges with grace and humility, and in the same way his ultimate challenge,” the communicator tweeted.
Collins, Bus Aldrin and Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) departed Cape Canaveral (Florida) on July 16, 1969 at 09:32 local time as part of NASA’s Apollo program.
From there, the Saturn V rocket took off, carrying the spacecraft with three astronauts who reached the moon on July 20.
“Dear Mike, wherever you are or wherever you are, you will always have the fire to take us to new heights efficiently,” the 91-year-old Aldrin, a survivor of that historic mission as of today, said on his Twitter account today.
“Today the nation has lost a true pioneer and lifelong analyst,” NASA said in a statement.
As an Apollo 11 command block pilot for the American space agency, his colleagues called him the “lone man in history” because he walked on the moon for the first time.
Unlike Armstrong and Aldrin, Collins never walked on the moon. Collins stayed behind and piloted as the command module circled upwards. For this reason, Collins was often referred to as the “Forgotten Astronaut”.
NASA today stressed that “Collins” helped to achieve a decisive milestone, and recalled that he distinguished himself as a Gemini project and an Air Force pilot.
“Michael was a tireless space promoter,” NASA said in the statement.
As he celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of his journey to the moon in 2019, Collins said without hesitation that he “proposes to go directly to Mars,” a red planet already on the plans of the US space agency.
NASA recalled its words today: “Research is not a choice, in fact it is a must.”
Thinking seriously about his experience in orbit, he added: “Earthlings can record what kind of civilization we have created and whether or not we have traveled to other parts of the galaxy.”
“We will miss him so much. However, we know how lucky Mike was to live the life he lived,” his family said in the note.
Collins, who was the star of the celebrations two years ago at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, proposed using the Kennedy name on the first human voyage to Mars.