Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins: Man who piloted the ship to the moon
Published on April 28, 2021 at 22.19
Collins never set foot on the lunar surface like his crewmates Aldrin and Armstrong.
Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins has died at age 90.- Agencies
Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, who piloted the ship from which Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left to make their historic first steps on the moon in 1969, died Wednesday of cancer, his family said.
Collins was part of the three-man Apollo 11 crew that effectively ended the space race between the United States and Russia and fulfilled President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to reach the moon by the end of the 1960s.
Along with his autobiography, Collins wrote a book on his experience for younger readers, “Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut’s Story.” In a 1994 preface to the book, Collins urged more spending on space exploration and on a manned mission to Mars.
He was responsible for re-docking the two spacecraft before the men could begin heading back to Earth. Had something gone wrong and Aldrin and Armstrong been stuck on the moon’s surface — a real fear — Collins would have returned to Earth alone.
Though he traveled some 238,000 miles to the moon and came within 69 miles, Collins never set foot on the lunar surface like his crewmates Aldrin and Armstrong, who died in 2012. None of the men flew in space after the Apollo 11 mission.
Collins’ specialty was as a command module pilot, a job he compared to being the base-camp operator on a mountain climbing expedition. As a result, it meant he wasn’t considered to take part in the July 20, 1969, landing.
Collins was alone for nearly 28 hours before Armstrong and Aldrin finished their tasks on the moon’s surface and lifted off in the lunar lander.
John Glenn’s 1962 flight making him the first American to orbit the Earth persuaded Collins to apply to NASA. He was accepted on his second try, in 1963, as part of the third group of astronauts selected. Collins’ first mission was 1966’s Gemini 10, one of the two-man missions made in preparation for flights to the moon.
Collins spent the eight-day mission piloting the command module. While Armstrong and Aldrin descended to the moon’s surface in the lunar lander, Eagle, Collins remained alone in the command module, Columbia.