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NASA History in Rome: The Birthplace of Michael Collins

Michael Collins photo of earth from space, 1969

Visiting Rome is always a history lesson. But many people — even Romans — don’t know that Rome played a small part in the history of NASA and the first moon landing.

Astronaut Michael Collins, the third man to walk on the moon, was born in Rome on October 31, 1930. His family was stationed there because his father worked in the defense attaché at the U.S. Embassy.

A marble plaque on 16 Via Tevere in the Pinciana neighborhood (near Villa Borghese) commemorates the occasion with these words:

In questa casa nacque il 31 Ottobre 1930 MICHAEL COLLINS, intrepido astronauta della missione Apollo 11, primo uomo sulla luna. Roma. Fiera di questo figlio posa a ricordo perenne.

Archive footage of the ceremony in Rome when plaque was installed at the birthplace of Michael Collins on Via Tevere 16

While Collins is often considered the forgotten astronaut of the Apollo 11 mission, overshadowed by his colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin who set foot on the moon’s surface on July 20, 1969, he is also responsible for having taken one of the world’s most iconic photos.

When Collins took his famous photograph of earth and the lunar module, he was the only human, alive or dead, that wasn’t in the frame of the picture.

Michael Collins photo of earth from space, 1969

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