American astronaut Michael Collins, who was part of the Apollo 11 mission, has died from cancer at the age of 90, his family announced on April 28.
“We regret to share that our beloved father and grandfather passed away today, after a valiant battle with cancer,” his family said in a statement.
Though Collins was a member of the three-man moon landing crew in 1969, he never stepped foot on the moon, unlike his colleagues, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Collins stayed behind to pilot the command module, orbiting 60 miles above the lunar surface.
“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,” Aldrin wrote on Twitter, referencing Collins’ bestselling 1974 memoir.
In the memoir titled, “Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journey,” Collins wrote about his solitary time when he circled around the moon, prompting others to call him, “the loneliest man in history.”
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) paid tribute to Collins, calling him “a true pioneer and lifelong advocate for exploration.”
“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,” Acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk further said.
After retiring from NASA in 1970, Collins served as the director of the National Air and Space Museum and undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
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