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Eileen Collins

First Woman Commander, NASA

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The first female to command a space shuttle, Eileen Collins talks about growing up loving aviation and fighting for a dream no one thought possible for women.
Eileen Collins was born in Elmira, New York in a lower-middle class family.   Eileen’s love of science came early, in the halls of her hometown library. After receiving her bachelors in mathematics and economics from Syracuse University, she joined an Air Force pilot training program, and out of a class of 320, she was one of only four women chosen.   After climbing the ranks within the US Air Force for over a decade, Collins applied to NASA in 1989 while studying to become an Air Force Test Pilot. In 1991, Collins joined NASA, becoming the first woman to go through pilot training for the space shuttle program, and only a few years later she would become the space shuttle’s first female pilot. In 1999, she would break another barrier, becoming the first woman to command a space shuttle mission.    Over her 15 year NASA career, Collins flew on a total of four shuttle missions, two as pilot and two as commander. 

More From Eileen

It Didn't Cost a Thing
Eileen Collins talks about being raised by her mom and how she would take the kids to the library, where Eileen fell in love with aviation.

Do What Eileen Wants to Do
Eileen Collins talks about her message to young girls, to be who they want to be, and how our culture can discourage them from pursuing their dreams.  

Helping This Barrier Fall
Eileen Collins remembers flying an aircraft to Grenada, a combat zone at the time, when there was a law against women flying in combat zone missions.

Still Want to Come Down Here and Work?
Eileen Collins talks about the nervewrecking experience of finding out she would be the first woman pilot of a space shuttle.

Knowing the Language
Eileen Collins talks about the difficulty of getting women in pilot positions at NASA.

This Isn't Right
Eileen Collins talks about listening as the Columbia space shuttle went down and what a loss she felt after her friends died.

Very Focused
Eileen Collins talks about flying a maneuver for the first time and the adrenaline rush she it caused in her.

I Can't Do It All
Eileen Collins shares on trying to do it all and asking for help as a working mom.

The Best Preparation
Eileen Collins talks about the importance and difficulty of the job of parenting.

It's Kind of Hard to Let Go
Eileen Collins shares on challenge of balancing parenting and her very factual and rule-based job.

Afraid to Ask Questions
Eileen Collins comments on the timidity of little girls and how our culture has affected them to be shy.