First Women Shuttle Commander
“. . . I know every young person has some kind of hero, and my heroes were my parents. . . . I had heroes from music, television, and sports, and those are good heroes for children to have. But as I think back, none of them really stayed with me for any length of time. . .”
-Col. Eileen Collins
The first American woman to command a space shuttle, 42 year old U.S. Air Force Col. Eileen Marie Collins, launched into history July 23, 1999. After delays, lift off emergencies and preparation for contingencies, Col. Collins and her crew of four successfully released the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and flew Columbia to a textbook touchdown. The five-day mission will enable scientists to study exotic phenomena of the universe such as exploding stars, quasars and black holes. Trained as a test pilot at the elite Edwards AFB, in 1990 she became the first woman chosen by NASA as a space shuttle pilot. As the millennium begins Eileen has flown more than 5,000 hours in more than thirty types of aircraft.
Eileen learned to fly at twenty and in 1978 became one of the first women to be admitted to Air Force pilot training. Col. Collins taught both flying and mathematics at the Air Force Academy.