Apollo 11 astronaut Micheal Collins died at the age of 90 on Wednesday. Collins' family issued a statement on Twitter saying that he was battling cancer.
When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were making history in 1969 by becoming the first humans to step on the Moon, Collins stayed back in the mothership in the lunar orbit. Collins said that the experience forever changed his perspective, impressing upon him the fragility of our home planet, AFP reported.
Collins was referred to as the 'loneliest man in history', for when Columbia touched down on the moon, he lost contact with his crewmates and with NASA. With his line of communication blocked, Collins eventually passed over the moon’s far side into a complete blackout.
He was a graduate from the United States Military Academy class of 1952. He joined the United States Air Force and flew F-86 Sabre fighters at Chambley-Bussières Air Base, France. He was selected in NASA's third group of 14 astronauts in 1963. His first spaceflight was on Gemini 10 in 1966. On the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, he became one of 24 people to fly to the Moon, which he orbited thirty times.
Collins retired from NASA in 1970. He then started at the Department of State as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. He also acted as the director of the National Air and Space Museum, and held this position until 1978. Collins then joined the LTV Aerospace as vice-president in 1980. He resigned in 1985 to start his own consulting firm. Collins was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2011.
"Mike always faced the challenges of life with grace and humility, and faced this, his final challenge, in the same way," Collins' family posted on his official Twitter account.