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Michael Collins, who piloted the Apollo 11 spacecraft during the Moon landing, has died aged 90

Michael Collins piloted the orbiting command module as his colleages landed on the Moon.

Image: Twitter

ASTRONAUT MICHAEL COLLINS who participated in the Apollo moon landing mission has died following a battle with cancer, his family said. 

Collins, 90, flew the command module above the lunar surface in 1969 as his colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the surface. 

His death was announced by his family in a statement released on Collins’ twitter account saying that he had died following a battle with cancer.

“We regret that our beloved father and grandfather passed away today, after a valiant battle with cancer. He spent his final days peacefully, with his family by his side,” it read.

“Mike always faced the challenges of life with grace and humility, and face this, his final challenge, in 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.

“Please join us fondly and joyfully remembering his sharp wit, his quiet sense of purpose, and his wise perspective, gained both from looking back at Earth from the vantage of space and gazing across calm waters from the deck of his fishing boat,” they added. 

Collins, born in Rome in 1930, was an air force fighter pilot and after his moon mission he decided to not return to space.

He became a diplomat as assistant secretary of state for public affairs during the Vietnam War – he would later become the first director of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington.

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His Irish roots go back to his grandfather Jeremiah Bernard Collins who moved from Dunmanway, west Cork to the US in 1860. 

moon-landing-50-years-03-jul-2019 The crew of the Apollo 11, from left, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin E. Buzz Aldrin. Aldrin is the last surviving member. Source: Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock

 NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk said America had lost a “true pioneer” and advocate for exploration.  

As pilot of the Apollo 11 command module – some called him ‘the loneliest man in history’ – while his colleagues walked on the Moon for the first time, he helped our nation achieve a defining milestone. He also distinguished himself in the Gemini Program and as an Air Force pilot.

“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. And his spirit will go with us as we venture toward farther horizons,” he said.

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