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History has given us many great men named Michael Collins: the football player whose birthday is tomorrow, the science fiction and mystery author who wrote The Planets of Death in 1970, the Irish leader who died in 1922, and astronaut Michael Collins, who flew the Apollo 11 command capsule while his crewmates set foot on the Moon.

Major General Michael Collins was born October 31, 1930 in Rome, Italy, where his father served as a military attache. He graduated from West Point Military Academy in 1952. He served as an officer in the United States Air Force from 1952 to 1970. From 1970 to 1982, he served in the Air Force Reserves. He was a test pilot and an astronaut. In his long life, he not only witnessed history, he helped make it. He married Patricia Finnegan in 1957. They had two daughters, Kate and Ann, and a son Michael. As an astronaut, he was originally assigned to Project Gemini. On the Gemini 10 mission, he became the first astronaut to perform two spacewalks on the same mission.

On Apollo 11, he was the man who stayed in the capsule while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the Moon.

Collins wrote “Liftoff: The Story of America’s Adventure in Space (1988), a history of the American space program, Mission to Mars (1990), a non-fiction book on human spaceflight to Mars, and Flying to the Moon and Other Strange Places (1976), revised and re-released as Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut’s Story (1994), a children’s book on his experiences.” His most highly regarded book is his autobiography, Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys (1974).

{Apollo 11 command module pilot Michael Collins listens to remarks during a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin himself and John Glenn in the Rotunda at the U.S. Capitol, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011, in Washington. Credit: (NASA/Paul E. Alers) }

From 1970 to 1971, Collins was Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. From 1971 to 1978, Collins was director of the National Air and Space Museum. Under his supervision, the museum was completed on budget and opened ahead of schedule (unusual for government projects).

In 1966, Collins was awarded the Air Force Distinguished Cross for his work in the Gemini Project. The same year he was awarded the NASA Exceptional Service Medal. In 1969 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction, the Collier Trophy, and the General Thomas D. White USAF Space Trophy. In 1970 he was awarded the Hubbard Medal of the Nationa; Geographic Society.the Harmon Trophy. and the Iven C. Kincheloe Award from the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. In 1999 he was awarded the Smithsonian’s Langley Gold Medal for aviation. He was a member of four halls of fame: the International Air & Space Hall of Fame (1971), the International Space Hall of Fame (1977), the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame (1993), and the National Aviation Hall of Fame (1985). He had both an asteroid and a lunar crater named after him.

His wife Patricia F. Collins, predeceased him in 2014. He died of cancer, April 28, 2021, in Naples, FL. He is survived by his three children and by his grandchildren.

The world has lost a hero.

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Susan Macdonald
Susan Macdonald

Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as short stories in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, “Supernatural Colorado”, “Barbarian Crowns”, “Cat Tails””Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions,  Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.

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