Michael Collins: who was ‘forgotten’ Apollo 11 moon landing astronaut who has died aged 90

Michael Collins was part of the first ever moon landing, alongside Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin

The Apollo 11 astronaut who was part of the crew for the first manned mission to the moon has died aged 90.

Michael Collins died peacefully with his family by his side on Wednesday (29 April) after a “valiant battle with cancer.

Sign up to our NationalWorld Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

In a statement released on social media, his family said: “Mike always faced the challenges of life with grace and humility, and faced this, his final challenge, the same way.

"We will miss him terribly. Yet we also know how lucky Mike felt to have lived the life he did.

"We will honour his wish for us to celebrate, not mourn, that life."

Who was Michael Collins?

Michael Collins was one of the three crew members on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, alongside Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

Collins was part of the first manned mission to the moon (Photo: Getty Images)

He was often referred to as the “forgotten astronaut” because he piloted the orbiting command module while his colleagues made the historic moon landing.

Collins travelled around 238,000 miles to the moon and came within 69 miles of it, but unlike Armstrong and Aldrin, he never set foot on its surface.

Instead, he spent almost a day in lunar orbit while his crew mates walked on the moon.

He spent 48 minutes in each orbit on the "far side of the moon" and in that time lost communication with mission control.

He died peacefully on 29 April aged 90 after a battle with cancer (Photo: Getty Images)

Collins said he mostly performed chores, as well as keeping an eye out for the Eagle lunar module in preparation to meet it again.

Armstrong and Aldrin later rejoined him on the command module after more than 21 hours on the moon’s surface.

Despite not being able to reach its surface, Collins performed crucial manoeuvres that were needed to reach the moon and said he felt like an important part of the mission.

Writing about the experience in his autobiography, Collins said: "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.

"This venture has been structured for three men, and I consider my third to be as necessary as either of the other two."

After leaving Nasa, he had a brief stint in politics and later retired to Florida, where he painted and wrote.

He joined Twitter in 2019, at the age of 88, but admitted he never really enjoyed the spotlight of public life.

Buzz Aldrin, 91, is not the only surviving crew member of the Apollo 11 mission, and paid tribute to his colleague in a tweet.

He wrote: “Dear Mike, Wherever you have been or will be, you will always have the Fire to Carry us deftly to new heights and to the future. We will miss you. May you Rest In Peace."

The Apollo 11 achievement was repeated only six more times before NASA scrapped the programme, and humans have not stepped foot on the moon since Apollo 17 in 1972.

A message from the editor:

Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going.