When I was a kid, space travel was a big deal. Our heroes were astronauts. We hung their pictures on our bedroom walls. The Russians were kicking our butts in the space race, prompting President John F. Kennedy to pledge in September of 1962 to land an American on the Moon before the end of the decade – ahead of the Russians:

"We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too," Kennedy famously said in September of 1962.

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It was the Apollo 11 mission on July 16, 1969, that launched astronauts Mike Collins, Buzz Aldrin, and Neil Armstrong in the direction of the Moon. On July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin would become the first men ever to land on the lunar surface. What followed was a historic moonwalk, a little bit of golf, and some crazy moon-buggy driving.  

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Collins never landed on the Moon. He piloted the command module in 1969 and circled some 60 miles above the Moon's surface. His job was to safely facilitate the redocking of the lunar module with the command module. CNN reports Collins also flew as part of the early Gemini program piloting Gemini 10 in 1963. In all, Collins logged 266 hours in space. 

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I remember watching the Moon landing and the moonwalk live on television. It was mighty heady stuff for an 11-year-old kid. How proud we all were to be Americans.

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Micheal Collins died from cancer on Wednesday. He was 90 years old. Buzz Aldrin, at 91, is the only member of the Apollo 11 crew still with us. In this day and age, when so many people worship actors and athletes, we could use a few more guys like Mike Collins around.

Mike Collins, a true American hero. Thank you for your service to mankind. 

 Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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