The National Wrestling Hall of Fame was saddened to learn that Michael Collins, honored by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as an Outstanding American in the Charter Class of 1992, passed away on Wednesday, at the age of 90.
When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first two men to walk on the moon, Collins had the most important job on two worlds. As command pilot, it was his assignment to take his fellow astronauts to the moon, and to bring them home safely.
Collins competed as a varsity wrestler while attending St. Albans Prep School in Washington, D.C.
“On behalf of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Board of Governors and staff, I want to express our sincere sympathies to the family of Michael Collins and to our nation,” said Lee Roy Smith, Executive Director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. “Michael inspired generations as an astronaut and with his character, which he said, during his induction into the Hall of Fame in 1992, was ‘substantially shaped through his wrestling experiences.’ We are proud to recognize Michael as a member of the Hall of Fame.”
His family shared the news Wednesday after his passing on his social media accounts.
“We regret to share that our beloved father and grandfather passed away today, after a valiant battle with cancer,” the statement read.
“He spent his final days peacefully, with his family by his side. Mike always faced the challenges of life with grace and humility, and faced this, his final challenge, in the same way. We will miss him terribly. Yet we also know how lucky Mike felt to have lived the life he did. We will honor his wish for us to celebrate, not mourn, that life. Please join us in fondly and joyfully remembering his sharp wit, his quiet sense of purpose, and his wise perspective, gained both from looking back at Earth from the vantage of space and gazing across calm waters from the deck of his fishing boat. Our family asks for privacy during this difficult time. Details on services will be forthcoming.”
Outstanding Americans recognized by the Hall of Fame demonstrate wrestling’s pride in those who have used the disciplines of the sport to launch notable careers in other walks of life, such as science and technology, business and industry, government and the military, and the arts and humanities.
Collins was the first astronaut honored by the Hall of Fame as an Outstanding American. Astronauts Dr. Joseph P. Allen and Dominic Pudwill Gorie were honored as Outstanding Americans in 1998 and 2017, respectively.
A test pilot and fighter pilot, rising to the rank of colonel in the Air Force, Collins joined the astronaut program in 1963. He became a space walker in 1966 during the Gemini 10 mission. He spent eight years as director of the National Air and Space Museum, and is the author of three books on America’s space program.
A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, he earned a doctorate from Northwestern University.
His awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Hubbard Medal; Collier, Goddard and Harmon Trophies, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and an international gold space medal.
He served as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs in 1974, was director of the National Air and Space Museum from 1971 through 1978, and was undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institute, from 1978 to 1980.