American astronaut Michael Collins, who stayed behind in the command module of Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969, while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin travelled to the lunar surface to become the first humans to walk on the moon, has died at the age of 90, his family said.
A statement released by his family on Thursday AEST said Collins died of cancer. Often described as the “forgotten” third astronaut on the historic mission, Michael Collins remained alone for more than 21 hours until his two colleagues returned in the lunar module. He lost contact with mission control in Houston each time the spacecraft circled the dark side of the moon. Collins wrote an account of his experiences in his 1974 autobiography, “Carrying the Fire,” but largely shunned publicity. “I know that I would be a liar or a fool if I said that 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 released by NASA in 2009.
Collins’ first voyage into space came in July 1966 as pilot on Gemini X, part of the missions that prepared NASA’s Apollo program. The Gemini X mission carried out a successful docking with a separate target vehicle. His second, and final, spaceflight was the historic Apollo 11.