BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Michael Collins, the NASA astronaut and retired Air Force general who piloted Apollo 11’s mission to the moon, died early Wednesday, according to a statement from his family. He was 90.
Collins launched from Kennedy Space Center with crewmates Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 16, 1969, kicking off an eight-day mission that culminated in a successful landing on the moon.
He was tasked with piloting the Columbia command module while Armstrong and Aldrin descended to the surface in the Eagle lunar module.
“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 posted to his official Twitter account. “He spent his final days peacefully with family by his side.”
NASA posted a tribute video for Collins on Twitter, calling the former astronaut an “advocate for exploration” that “inspired generations.”
“Today the nation lost a true pioneer,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk in a release. “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.”
Contributing: Jay Cannon, USA TODAY
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