(CNN) – Astronaut Michael Collins died of cancer, according to a statement released by his family on his verified Twitter account. He was 90 years old.
Michael Collins, known as “the most lonely man in history,” was famous for experimenting with the Apollo 11 command module that was orbiting Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin while they first walked on the moon’s surface in 1969.
“NASA mourns the loss of this brilliant pilot and astronaut, who is a friend of all who seek to expand human capabilities,” said Steve Gurchik, Acting NASA Administrator.
“Whether your work is behind the scenes or on display, your legacy will always be one of the leaders who made America’s first steps into the universe. His spirit will accompany us as we venture further afield.
Michael Collins was born in Italy in 1930.
He became a pilot in the Air Force and later an astronaut in the Gemini program. He was the third American to perform a spacewalk, according to a NASA biography. NASA said that including the Apollo 11 mission, Michael Collins recorded 266 hours in space.
Collins tweeted in 2019: “I really think if the political leaders of the world could see their planet from a distance, say, 100,000 miles (160,000 kilometers),” their “perspective would change drastically.”