Pilot, astronaut and author Michael Collins passed away on Wednesday at the age of 90. Chosen as one of fourteen members of NASA’s third astronaut group in 1963, Collins first went to space as pilot of the 1966 Gemini 10 mission. He also flew the Apollo 11 mission, piloting the command module while crew members Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took the lunar module to the Moon’s surface. Over the course of his life, Collins, who spent a total of 266 hours in space, was awarded the Presidential Medal for Freedom, Robert J. Collier Trophy, Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy and Harmon International Trophy.
“Today the nation lost a true pioneer and lifelong advocate for exploration in astronaut Michael Collins,” said NASA Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “NASA mourns the loss of this accomplished pilot and astronaut, a friend of all who seek to push the envelope of human potential. Whether his work was behind the scenes or on full view, his legacy will always be as one of the leaders who took America’s first steps into the cosmos.”
Collins was born Oct. 31, 1930, in Rome, Italy, and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1952. He logged more than 4,200 hours flight time serving as a fighter pilot and test pilot at California’s Edwards Air Force Base. In 1970, he retired from the Air Force as a major general. After leaving NASA, Collins held positions including assistant secretary of state for public affairs, director of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum and vice president of LTV Aerospace and Defense Co.