American astronaut Michael Collins, a member of Apollo 11, the first manned mission to the Moon, died of cancer on Wednesday at age 90, his family said in a statement, AFP reported.
A command module pilot, his role was to stay in orbit while his companions Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to walk on the Moon.
“Mike always faced life's challenges with grace and humility, and he faced this, his final challenge, in the same way,” wrote the family of Collins on his official Twitter account.
In the statement, the family highlighted "their keen wit, their serene sense of duty and the gaze of wisdom acquired by returning to Earth from space and observing the calm waters from their fishing boat."
Despite his age, Collins he remained in recent years the most active of the Apollo veterans, and the one who most poetically evoked his memories of the lunar adventure.
"When we left and saw it, oh, what an incredible sphere," he recounted in 2019 in Washington, on the occasion of commemorating the 50th anniversary of the space milestone.
"The Sun was behind it, so it was illuminated with a golden circle that made the craters really rare, due to the contrast between the whitest of the whites and the blackest of the blacks."
"As splendid and impressive as it was, it was nothing compared to what we saw through the other window," he continued. "There was that pea the size of your fingernail with outstretched arm, such a beautiful little thing wrapped in the black velvet of the rest of the universe."
"I told the control center, 'Houston, I see the world in my window.'
Born on October 31, 1930 in Rome to a diplomat father, Collins He became a test pilot for the United States Army.
In the 1960s, he racked up many flying hours in space, especially during Gemini missions.
The only member of the Apollo 11 crew who did not walk on the Earth's satellite said he had no bitterness about it.
Like Aldrin and Armstrong, Collins He quickly left NASA after his triumphant return to Earth and pursued a prolific public career.
He was appointed Under Secretary of State for Public Affairs by President Richard Nixon. He then directed the construction of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, assuming its presidency between 1971 and 1978.
Later he became a consultant and wrote books related to the space adventure.
Collins was one of the first astronauts to write several books about his experiences. And also one of the few whose family life outweighed all the drawbacks associated with his exhaustive dedication to the space program. He was widowed by his first wife in 2014.