Michael Collins, astronaut on historic Apollo 11 flight and moon landing, dies at age 90

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US Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins is seen at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, to discuss the impact of his historic mission to the moon on April 15, 2019. - During the Apollo 11 Mission while he stayed in orbit around the Moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left in the Apollo Lunar Module to make the first crewed landing on the Moon's surface. (Photo by Eric BARADAT / AFP) (Photo by ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)

US Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins is seen at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, to discuss the impact of his historic mission to the moon on April 15, 2019. – During the Apollo 11 Mission while he stayed in orbit around the Moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left in the Apollo Lunar Module to make the first crewed landing on the Moon’s surface. (Photo by Eric BARADAT / AFP) (Photo by ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (WGHP) — Michael Collins, an astronaut who was part of the historic Apollo 11 crew that landed humans on the moon for the first time, has died at the age of 90.

His family shared the news over Twitter on Wednesday.

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

NASA responded with a heartfelt statement from acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk.

“Today the nation lost a true pioneer and lifelong advocate for exploration in astronaut Michael Collins,” Jurczyk said. “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.

On July 20, 1969, while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren touched down in the lunar module on the moon’s surface, taking that historic “giant leap for mankind,” Collins remained on the ship in lunar orbit.

He was 65 miles above as Armstrong and Aldrin made headlines. After their return to Earth, Collins joined in tours to share the story of their three-man mission.

Collins signature is beside Armstrong’s, Aldrin’s and President Richard M. Nixon’s on a plaque left on the moon. It reads, “We came in peace for all mankind.”

Below is the full statement from Collins’ family:

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. 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. Our family asks for privacy during this difficult time.”

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