Passing of Michael Collins Leaves 5 Surviving Astronauts from Apollo Lunar Landing Missions

Michael Collins orbited the moon in the command module Columbia during the historic Apollo 11 mission in July 1969. (Credits: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The death of Apollo 11 command module pilot Michael Collins on Wednesday at the age of 90 means there are now five surviving astronauts from among the 18 who participated in the six Apollo landings on the moon from 1969 through 1972. Thirteen of the 29 astronauts who participated in the 11 Apollo missions that began in 1968 remain with us today.

Surviving lunar landing mission astronauts include Collins’ Apollo 11 crewmate Buzz Aldrin, 91, who walked on the moon with mission commander Neil Armstrong on July 20, 1969. Armstrong passed away at the age of 82 on Aug. 25, 2012, following heart surgery.

In addition to Aldrin, three other moon walkers remain with us: Apollo 15 commander David R. Scott, 88; Apollo 16 lunar module pilot Charles Duke Jr., 85; and Apollo 17 lunar module pilot Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, 85. Apollo 16 command module pilot Ken Mattingly II, 85, who orbited the moon, is the other survivor from the six missions to land on the lunar surface.

Collins orbited the moon in the Apollo 11 Command Service Module, never setting foot on the surface. He wrote in “Carrying the Fire,” a memoir of his flying career, that prior to the historic flight, chief astronaut Deke Slayton had offered him command of a future Apollo mission. Collins turned it down, not wanting to put himself and his family through the additional years of intense training required.

Many people assumed Collins was lonely as he orbited the lunar far side, with Armstrong and Aldrin exploring the near side and billions of people back on Earth. Collins wrote this was a false impression; there was too much to do to feel lonely.

Many Apollo astronauts have lived into their 80’s. Collins was one of six astronauts to become a nonagenarian. The other five, who remain with us, include:

  • Frank Borman II, 93 (Apollo 8)
  • Jim Lovell, 93 (Apollo 8, 13)
  • James A. McDivitt, 91 (Apollo 9)
  • Buzz Aldrin, 91 (Apollo 11)
  • Thomas Stafford, 90 (Apollo 10).

Other astronauts from the program who are still alive include:

  • Walter Cunningham, 89 (Apollo 7)
  • William Anders, 87 (Apollo 8)
  • Fred Haise Jr., 87 (Apollo 13)
  • Russell “Rusty” Schweickart, 85 (Apollo 9).

All six astronauts from the Apollo 8 and 9 missions remain with us. The lunar landing crews of Apollo 12 and 14 have passed away. The crew of Apollo 1 perished in a flash fire during a ground test prior to a planned 14-day Earth orbit mission.

APOLLO LUNAR PROGRAM
MISSIONOBJECTIVES
CREW
BORNDIED
AGE
Apollo 1

Test command service module in Earth orbit for 14 days; crew died in a flash fire that swept through the command module during a practice countdownVirgil I. “Gus” GrissomApril 3, 1926January 27, 1967d. 40
Edward White IIOctober 14, 1930January 27, 1967d. 36
Roger ChaffeeFebruary 15, 1935January 27, 1967d. 31
Apollo 7
October 11-22 1968
Test command service module in Earth orbitWalter “Wally” Schirra Jr.March 12, 1923May 3, 2007d. 84
Donn EiseleJune 23, 1930December 2, 1987d. 57
Walter CunninghamMarch 16, 193289
Apollo 8
December 21-27 1968
First human voyage to the moon; 10 orbits above the lunar surfaceFrank Borman IIMarch 14, 192893
James LovellMarch 25, 192893
William AndersOctober 17, 193387
Apollo 9
March 3-13 1969
Test command service module and lunar module in Earth orbitJames A. McDivittJune 10, 192991
David R. ScottJune 6, 193288
Russell L. “Rusty” SchweickartOctober 25, 193585
Apollo 10
May 18-26 1969
Dress rehearsal for first human landing on the moon; lunar module flew within 50,000 feet of lunar surfaceThomas StaffordSeptember 17, 193090
John YoungSeptember 24, 1930January 5, 2018d. 87
Eugene CernanMarch 14, 1934January 16, 2017d. 82
Apollo 11
July 16-24 1969
First manned moon landing on Sea of Tranquility; Armstrong and Aldrin spent more than two hours walking on the surfaceNeil ArmstrongAugust 5, 1930August 25, 2012d. 82
Buzz AldrinJanuary 20, 193091
Michael CollinsOctober 31, 1930April 28, 2021d. 90
Apollo 12
November 14-24 1969
Second manned landing on the moon; recovered part of Surveyor 3 landerCharles “Pete” Conrad Jr.June 2, 1930July 8, 1999d. 69
Alan BeanMarch 15, 1932May 26, 2018d. 86
Richard “Dick” Gordon Jr.October 5, 1929November 6, 2017d. 88
Apollo 13
April 11-17 1970
Landing in Fra Mauro highlands aborted due to explosion in service module oxygen tank; used lunar module as lifeboatJames LovellMarch 25, 192893
Fred Haise Jr.November 14, 193387
John “Jack” Swigert Jr.August 30, 1931December 27, 1982d. 51
Apollo 14
January 31 – February 9, 1971
Exploration of the Fra Mauro highlands; first use of a wheeled vehicle on the moonAlan Shepard Jr.November 18, 1923July 21, 1998d. 74
Edgar MitchellSeptember 17, 1930February 4, 2016d. 85
Stuart RoosaAugust 16, 1933December 12, 1994d. 61
Apollo 15
July 28 – August 7, 1971
Exploration of Hadley Rille; first use of the lunar rover; Worden made first deep space walk to retrieve film from the service moduleDavid R. ScottJune 6, 193288
James IrwinMarch 17, 1930August 8, 1991d. 61
Alfred “Al” WordenFebruary 7, 1932March 18, 2020d. 88
Apollo 16
April 16-27 1972
Exploration of Descartes Highlands; Young and Duke spent more than 20 hours walking and driving on the surfaceJohn YoungSeptember 24, 1930January 5, 2018d. 87
Charles Duke Jr.October 3, 193585
Kenneth Mattingly IIMarch 17, 193685
Apollo 17
December 7-19 1972
Final manned moon mission; Cernan and Schmitt spent 22 hours outside the lunar module exploring Taurus-Littrow highlandsEugene CernanMarch 14, 1934January 16, 2017d. 82
Harrison “Jack” SchmittJuly 3, 193585
Ronald EvansNovember 10, 1933April 7, 1990d. 56