The NASA veteran served as Command Module Pilot on the historic Apollo 11 mission in 1969. When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon for the first time in human history, Mr Collins stayed by himself in lunar orbit, waiting for the safe return of his crewmates. The astronaut, who is now 89, retired from NASA in 1970 and has been spending his free time answering questions on Twitter.

One person asked the astronaut: “What do you think is the most pressing question of the universe?”

Mr Collins very briefly responded, saying: “Are we alone? #AskMichaelCollins”

The astronaut has in the past talked about the possibility of alien life existing beyond Earth.

In 1999, for instance, he argued against the “height of arrogance” in assuming life has not developed in other parts of the infinite cosmos.

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But his latest comment has sparked a frenzy of tweets, with many people claiming in their responses aliens must exist.

One person tweeted: “No, we are not. But consider this. Civilisations advance, on the whole, exponentially. This is because knowledge breeds more knowledge.

“The y values of the exponential function samples at two randomly chosen values of x have about zero chance of being comparable…

“So what should we conclude: that no two civilisations are comparable.

“Also, because we are barely in our literate period, we are at the low end. They are essentially all incomparably more advanced than us.”

Another person said: “There’s no way we’re alone.”

Does life, be it similar to our own or not, exist elsewhere in our solar system?

NASA

A third Twitter user said: “You are a hero, Michael! I don’t think we are alone; the universe is just too vast for that to be the case.

“Even if we *are* in a simulation, I still think ‘The Programmers’ wouldn’t have made just us.”

However, some people appeared content with the possibility of humans being alone in the universe.

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One person said: “We are alone until proven otherwise.”

Another person said: “Do we really need to know whether we’re alone or not?

“Are we so curious as human beings so that we keep raising this question or do we just fear eventual loneliness? #AskMichaelCollins”

The question if humans are alone in the universe is about as old as mankind itself.

The question is also at the forefront of NASA’s space exploration efforts.

The US space agency said: “Does life, be it similar to our own or not, exist elsewhere in our solar system? Our galaxy?

“Until 1992, when the first exoplanet was confirmed, it was uncertain whether there were even any planets outside those in our own Solar System.”

The most likely world where life could have developed millions of years ago is the planet Mars.

Scientists believe the barren world once resembled a young, wet Earth before it dried up and lost most of its dense atmosphere.

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