While we don’t normally mark the passing of aviation luminaries… it’s hard not to pay testament to the life of the legendary astronaut, Michael Collins, who died this morning at the age of 90. As all readers should know, Collins piloted the Apollo 11 command module during its journey to and from the moon in July, 1969. After his storied career with NASA, Collins later became the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum when it’s newly-constructed building first opened on the Mall in Washington, DC during 1976. As such, it seems only fitting to let the current director of that institution, Christopher U. Browne, describe Michael Collins’ legacy…
“Mike piloted the Apollo 11 command module Columbia on its epic flight to the Moon and back. He would always say that he was as Earthbound as the rest of us and no different than anyone else, but NASA knew what they were getting when they selected Mike for the mission and the history books: a humble man of remarkable ingenuity, creativity, integrity, and authenticity.
As an astronaut, Mike had occasion to look out at both the Moon and Earth, and know that all of humankind and all its history was in his forward field of view. As we move on without Mike, better for having known him, the future is in our forward view and it’s our turn to carry the fire. He prepared us well for that noble task—and I hope the world in his window will always remember the name Michael Collins.”
General Collins’ vision and extraordinary achievements helped define our museum, and his wit, warmth, and wisdom will always be a part of our work.