While his colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first men to walk on our satellite, he remained to pilot the command module in the lunar orbit. “The thing I remember most”, he said, “is the image of the Earth seen from afar, small, very bright, blue and white. Shining, beautiful, serene and fragile “
He became famous as the “loneliest man,” who remained in the lunar orbit to pilot the Columbia command module of the Apollo 11 mission, while his colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first men to walk on the moon. Astronaut Michael Collins , however, recalling that historic mission never had any regrets: “I am honored to have had that position. I did not feel alone and abandoned, but part of what was happening on the lunar surface. There were three seats, so my presence was as necessary as that of the other two, ”he said in an interview a few years ago.
Died at the age of 90 next to his family, Collins is the second Apollo 11 astronaut to leave, after Armstrong. Only Aldrin remains, the second man to have walked on the Moon, with his 91 years and the ties decorated with stars and planets.
Born in Rome on October 31, 1930 as his father was a military attaché at the Embassy, Collins had graduated from Harvard and had started his career as an experimental pilot of the American Air Force. He had been selected by NASA in 1963, in the third astronaut corps of the American space agency. Not even three years later, in July 1966 he faced the first flight with the Gemini 10, in which he had become the first American protagonist of two spacewalks.
His second and last time in space was the Apollo 11 mission, in which he was the first man to be alone in orbit around the Moon. It was the Earth that kept him company: he said: “the thing I remember most is the image of the Earth seen from afar, small, very bright, blue and white. Shining, beautiful, serene and fragile “.
Just a year after that historic mission, Collins left NASA and, thinking back to the records of his career, he said: “Luck ruled 90 percent of my life. I came at the right time, I survived a dangerous career and I found success, write ‘lucky’ on my tombstone ”.
In 1970 he worked in the US State Department and from 1971 to 1978 he was the first director of the National Air and Space Museum, one of the most important in the world for the history of aeronautics and astronautics, where it is possible to see the aircraft of the Wright Brothers and the Apollo 11 command module Columbia. He later worked in private industry and wrote many books on space.
Sick for some time, he died next to his family. “He spent his last days in peace, with his relatives at his side,” the family wrote. “Mike has always faced life’s challenges with grace and humility, and he has faced this last challenge in the same way.” NASA has chosen to remember him with one of its most incisive phrases: “exploration is not a choice, it is an imperative” and “the only thing that deserves to be remembered is what kind of civilization we Earthmen have created and whether whether or not we have ventured to other parts of the galaxy ”.
Watch the NASA commemoration video:
Featured image: A portrait of Michael Collins in a spacesuit, taken on April 16, 1969, 3 months before the departure of the Apollo 11 mission. Credits: Nasa
Source and copyright: Ansa
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