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Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins dies at 90

Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins dies at 90 thumbnail

image copyrightReuters

image captionMichael Collins stayed in lunar orbit as his colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon

Michael Collins – one of the three crew members of the first manned mission to the Moon, Apollo 11 in 1969 – has died aged 90, his family say.

He died on Wednesday after “a valiant battle with cancer. He spent his final days peacefully, with his family by his side,” they said.

Collins had stayed in lunar orbit as his colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon.

Aldrin, 91, is now the only surviving member of the mission.

“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.”

The family also asked for privacy “during this difficult time”.

media captionApollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins on Moon mission

On 16 July 2019, Collins visited Florida’s Kennedy Space Center – the site where the mission had set off exactly 50 years earlier.

Speaking at launchpad 39A – where the crew’s rocket began the historic mission – he described how he felt during take-off.

“The shockwave from the rocket power hits you,” Collins told Nasa TV. “Your whole body is shaking. This gives you an entirely… different concept of what power really means.”

“You’re suspended in the cockpit… as you lift off,” he continued. “From then on it’s a quieter, more rational, silent ride all the way to the Moon.

“We crew felt the weight of the world on our shoulders, we knew that everyone would be looking at us, friend or foe.”

What was the Apollo 11 mission?

On 16 July 1969, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were strapped into their Apollo spacecraft on top of the vast Saturn V rocket and were propelled into orbit in just over 11 minutes.

Four days later, Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the lunar surface. Collins remained in the command module throughout the mission.

Armstrong’s words, beamed to the world by TV, entered history: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

image copyrightReuters

image captionUS astronaut Buzz Aldrin pictured on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission

About 400,000 people worked on the programme, at a cost at the time of $25bn.

The crew returned to Earth and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on 24 July.

An estimated 650 million people worldwide watched the Moon landing. For the US, the achievement helped it demonstrate its power to a world audience.

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