Michael Collins was one of the three astronauts on Apollo 11 in July 1969. He flew the command module Columbia, orbiting the moon while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the lunar surface. On July 21, Armstrong and Aldrin lifted off from the moon in their lunar module Eagle to reunite with the command module.
The three safely splashed down in the Pacific Ocean east of Wake Island on July 24 aboard Columbia. Their achievement was considered so spectacular that the three were honored with parades in New York and Chicago, which millions attended.
Before he flew on Apollo 11, Collins was command pilot on Gemini 10, his only other space flight. Like Armstrong and Aldrin, Collins was a military veteran.
He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., in 1952 and opted to join the Air Force.
While Armstrong and Aldrin were serving in the Korean War that year, Aldrin was assigned to several Air Force bases in Mississippi, Texas and Nevada for flight training. In January 1954, he joined the 21st Fighter-Bomber Wing at George Air Force Base, Calif., where he learned to deliver nuclear weapons in his F-86 Sabre jet.
He was on active duty from 1952 to 1970 and from 1970 to 1982, he served in the Air Force Reserve, retiring as a major general.
He currently spends his time in Florida and North Carolina.
All three Apollo 11 astronauts share the same birth year: 1930. “We came along at exactly the right time. We survived hazardous careers and were successful in them. But in my own case at least, it was 10 percent shrewd planning and 90 percent blind luck,” Collins told “The Guardian” reporter Robin McKie.
Moon landing culmination of years of work
President Kennedy issued the challenge
Fifty years ago: One ‘giant leap for mankind’
July 20, 1969: One giant leap for mankind
Apollo 11 at 50: Celebrating first steps on another world
Apollo 11’s ‘amiable strangers’ – Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins
DOD played significant role in lead-up to Apollo 11 Moon mission
Air Force service prepared Buzz Aldrin for Apollo 11 Moon landing
Apollo 11’s return to Earth rooted in aeronautics research
Johnson Space Center Oral History Project – Neil A. Armstrong