Rome bids farewell to Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins

Rome-born astronaut Michael Collins has died aged 90.

Michael Collins, the American astronaut who was the command module pilot for the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, has died at the age of 90.

The astronaut, who was born in the Salaria district of Rome in 1930, joined Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in the first manned mission to the moon in July 1969.

He died peacefully on 28 April, after "a valiant battle with cancer," according to an announcement by his family.

Collins, sometimes known as the "forgotten astronaut" because he didn't set foot on the moon, never became a household name like Armstrong and Aldrin. However his role in the three-man mission to the moon was crucial.

He flew the command module Columbia alone in lunar orbit, while Armstrong and Aldrin were on the moon's surface, leading some to call him the "loneliest man in history."

After his return from the mission, Collins stated: “The thing I remember most is the view of planet Earth from a great distance. Tiny. Very shiny. Blue and white. Bright. Beautiful. Serene and fragile.”

US president Joe Biden led tributes to Collins, stating: "From his vantage point, high above the Earth, he reminded us of the fragility of our own planet, and called on us to care for it like the treasure it is. Godspeed, Mike.”

Aldrin, aged 91 and now the last living member of the Apollo 11 mission after Armstrong's death in 2012, paid tribute to Collins on Twitter: “Dear Mike, Wherever you have been or will be, you will always have the Fire to Carry us deftly to new heights and to the future.”

NASA issued a statement hailing Collins as “a true pioneer and lifelong advocate for exploration," while in Rome the mayor Virginia Raggi paid tribute to the astronaut's "courage and valour," with a message of condolence for his family from the city of his birth.

In September 2019, in the wake of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Raggi announced that Rome would grant Collins honorary citizenship.

Collins, whose father was the US military attaché at the American embassy in Rome from 1928 to 1932, was born on Via Tevere 16 where a marble plaque in his honour can be seen today.

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Address Via Tevere, 16, 00198 Roma RM, Italy

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Rome bids farewell to Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins

Via Tevere, 16, 00198 Roma RM, Italy