Michael Collins, a former NASA astronaut who was on the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, died Wednesday after a battle with cancer. He was 90 years old.
In a statement on his Facebook page, Collins’ family wrote, “We regret to share 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.”
The statement went on, “Mike always faced the challenges of life with grace and humility, and faced 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 honor his wish for us to celebrate, not mourn, that life. Please join us in 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.”
The statement closed with a request for privacy for the family.
Collins was the command module pilot for Apollo 11, the three-member spaceflight that first put man on the moon in 1969. He was often called the “forgotten astronaut” because, unlike Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, he never walked on the moon, instead staying behind and piloting the command module as it circled above the lunar surface.
NASA commemorated him on Wednesday, tweeting, “We mourn the passing of Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, who piloted humanity’s first voyage to the surface of another world. An advocate for exploration, @AstroMCollins
inspired generations and his legacy propels us further into the cosmos.”