“We will honour his wish for us to celebrate, not mourn, that life.”
On 16 July 2019, Collins visited Florida’s Kennedy Space Center – the site where the mission had set off exactly 50 years earlier.
Speaking at launchpad 39A – where the crew’s rocket began the historic mission – he described how he felt during take-off.
“The shockwave from the rocket power hits you,” Collins told Nasa TV. “Your whole body is shaking. This gives you an entirely… different concept of what power really means.”
“You’re suspended in the cockpit… as you lift off,” he continued. “From then on it’s a quieter, more rational, silent ride all the way to the Moon.
“We crew felt the weight of the world on our shoulders, we knew that everyone would be looking at us, friend or foe.”
Unsung hero of the first Moon landing
By Paul Rincon, Science editor, BBC News website
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin garnered most of the attention for the historic first Moon landing in 1969.
But their crewmate, Michael Collins, was just as important for the success of the mission.
As the command module pilot, Collins stayed in lunar orbit while Neil and Buzz bounded across the surface. But he performed crucial manoeuvres in space that were needed to get to the Moon.
He was sanguine about others getting the glory: “I certainly thought that I did not have the best seat of the three,” he said. “But I can say in all honesty, I was thrilled with the seat that I did have.”
After leaving Nasa, he had a brief spell in politics, but later retired to Florida, where he painted and wrote.
Despite joining Twitter in 2019, at the age of 88, he admitted that he never really enjoyed the spotlight of public life.
But his name will live on, as a new generation of astronauts prepares to return to the Moon in the next few years, following the trail blazed by Collins and the other pioneers of Apollo.
What was the Apollo 11 mission?
On 16 July 1969, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were strapped into their Apollo spacecraft on top of the vast Saturn V rocket and were propelled into orbit in just over 11 minutes.
Four days later, Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the lunar surface. Collins remained in the command module throughout the mission.
Armstrong’s words, beamed to the world by TV, entered history: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”