Michael Collins was born on October 31, 1930 in Rome, Italy , his dad James Lawton Collins was the U.S. military attaché there from 1928-1932. For the first 17 years of his life he lived in Rome; Oklahoma; Governors Island, New York; Fort Hoyle (near Baltimore, Maryland); Fort Hayes (near Columbus, Ohio); Puerto Rico; San Antonio, Texas; and Alexandria, Virginia.
Exploration is not a choice, really, it’s an imperative.Michael Collins
He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, where is father and brother had gone, on June 3, 1952, with a Bachelor of Science degree in military science. He joined the United States Air Force (USAF) and began basic training in the T-6 Texan at Columbus Air Force Base in Columbus, Mississippi.
Michael was chosen for advanced day-fighter training at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, flying F-86 Sabres in September 1953. His next assignment was with the 21st Fighter-Bomber Wing at George Air Force Base, California.
His application for the USAF Experimental Flight Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California was successful in 1960. He decided to be an astronaut when saw the Mercury Atlas 6 flight of John Glenn on February 20, 1962.
His training began with a 240-hour course on the basics of spaceflight. His specialization was pressure suits and extravehicular activities (space walks. Collins was assigned to pilot Gemini 10 and would be the seventeenth American to fly in space.
Gemini 10 lifted off from Launch Complex 19 at Cape Canaveral at 05:20 local time on July 18, 1966. Collins and John Young completed nearly all the major objectives of the flight. They splashed down in the Atlantic July 21, 3.5 nautical miles from their recovery vessel, the amphibious assault ship USS Guadalcanal.
Due to a a cervical disc herniation, requiring two vertebrae to be fused, he was removed from the crew of Apollo 9. His next flight would be Apollo 11. The Saturn V rocket, lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969, at 09:32 EDT. As the Eagle separated from Columbia, with Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong Collins, alone aboard Columbia, inspected as it rotated before him to ensure the craft was not damaged and that the landing gear had correctly deployed before heading for the surface.
After some lonely, anxious time orbiting the moon alone, on July 21, Eagle lifted off from the Moon to rejoin Collins aboard Columbia in lunar orbit. Columbia splashed down in the Pacific on July 24, total mission duration was eight days, three hours, 18 minutes, and thirty-five seconds.
He became the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and later became the head of the State Department’s Bureau of Public Affairs. Michael was the Director of the National Air and Space Museum from 1972-1978 and then stepped down to become undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institution. He retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 1982 with the rank of major general. He was honored and received many awards including induction into 4 hall of fames.
He also wrote several books, Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys (1974), Liftoff: The Story of America’s Adventure in Space (1988), Mission to Mars (1990), Flying to the Moon and Other Strange Places (1976) which was revised and released as Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut’s Story (1994). He also painted watercolors, mostly aircraft he had flown and of the Florida Everglades. He didn’t sign them, wanting them to sell for what they were not because he was an astronaut.
Michael Collins died at age 90, from cancer, in Naples, Florida April 28, 2021.
Today the nation lost a true pioneer and lifelong advocate for exploration in astronaut Michael Collins. 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. Michael remained a tireless promoter of space. ‘Exploration is not a choice, really, it’s an imperative’. What would be worth recording is what kind of civilization we Earthlings created and whether or not we ventured out into other parts of the galaxy. His own signature accomplishments, his writings about his experiences, and his leadership of the National Air and Space Museum helped gain wide exposure for the work of all the men and women who have helped our nation push itself to greatness in aviation and space. There is no doubt he inspired a new generation of scientists, engineers, test pilots, and astronauts. NASA mourns the loss of this accomplished pilot and astronaut, a friend of all who seek to push the envelope of human potential. 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. And his spirit will go with us as we venture toward farther horizons.Acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk