Eileen Collins

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Biography of Eileen Collins, American astronaut who performed 4 space flights. She was the first woman to pilot a space shuttle. She was also the first commander of a space mission.

Eileen Collins Family and Studies

Eileen Collins was born in New York on November 19, 1956.

Her father, James Collins, was a rigger and a postal worker. Her mother Rose Marie was a secretary.

Eileen Collins and her three brothers had a childhood with few financial means and had to do small jobs to have money.

She finished high school in 1974 at a New York Academy.

She then attended Corning Community College, where she graduated in Science and Mathematics in 1976.

Eileen Collins College Studies

Eileen Collins had studied very hard and won a two-year scholarship to continue studying at the University of Syracuse.

At the University of Syracuse, she graduated in Mathematics and Economics in 1979, when she turned 23.

A fighter and disciplined, Eileen was pursuing her goal of being an aviator at the same time; She was licensed as a pilot at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

Eileen Collins
Eileen Collins struggled until she got her pilot’s license. Credit: Minot Air Force Base

Until 1982, for three years, she was piloting a Northrop T-38 Talon, an advanced training aircraft, intended for training newly graduated pilots.

With this aircraft she received the instruction of techniques at supersonic speeds, acrobatics, training, night flights for instrumentation and navigation.

Young Eileen Collins
Eileen Collins was already beginning to savor the triumph of her efforts. Credit: StarChild Archives

Later, from 1983 to 1985, she was a pilot, instructor, and commander of C-141 at Travis Air Base, California.

The Lockheed C-141 Starlifter was a strategic transport aircraft that was part of the United States Air Force.

Eileen Collins’ marriage and activities

Eileen Collins met her husband, Pilot Pat Youngs, when they were both flying the C-141 in the Air Force.

They married in 1988 and had two children: Bridget and Luke.

In her spare time, Eileen Collins enjoys running, golfing, horseback riding, camping, reading, taking pictures, and learning some astronomy.

Eileen Collins began preparing as an astronaut

After these seven years of training, Eileen Collins went on to study at the Air Force Institute of Technology.

In 1986, she earned a Master of Science in Research from Stanford University.

Three years later, in 1989, she obtained another Master at Webster University. This time the Master was “Management of space systems“.

With this excellent background of knowledge and technical training, in 1986 she was assigned as a mathematics teacher to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado.

During her three years in Colorado, until 1989, she also served as a T-41 instructor.

The Cessna T-41 was an aircraft used by the Armed Forces of various countries for transport and liaison training.

NASA admitted Eileen Collins as an astronaut

In the month of January 1990, Eileen Collins had already spent almost ten years in the service of the United States Air Force and had earned the award of six honorary medals.

This good background made her worthy of being included by NASA in the astronaut training program.

Eileen Collins became an astronaut in July 1991.

She is a veteran of space flight. It performed 4 space flights and has counted 872 hours in orbit:

STS-63 Discovery (1995)

Eileen Collins became the first woman to pilot a space shuttle. This mission opened the collaboration of the American and Russian space projects.

Eileen Collins
Eileen Collins checking the job list. Credit: Flickr

The first woman to be part of a space mission was Sally Ride in 1983.

Another woman, Mae Jemison, born in 1956 like Eileen Collins, had studied medicine and also flew into space in 1992.

STS-84 Atlantis (1997)

This was the sixth hitch mission to the Russian MIR station.

Eileen Collins repeated as a pilot and numerous secondary experiments were conducted and supplies were transferred to the MIR.

STS 93
The STS-93 Mission crew, in September 1998. Credit: Wikipedia

STS-93 Columbia (1999)

It was the first shuttle mission commanded by a woman: Eileen Collins.

It was a historic step for women. The deployment of the Chandra X-ray observatory was carried out.

Commander Collins
Commander Collins. Credit: US Department of Defense

STS-114 Discovery (2005)

This mission resumed space shuttle flights to the International Space Station following the Columbia disaster.

Discovery team
Discovery’s crew on July 12, 2005. Credit: NASA

Honors dispensed to Eileen Collins

Eileen Collins has received two NASA Honorary Medals in appreciation of her services.

The French government awarded her the Legion of Honor medal.

In 2005 Eileen Collins retired from the Air Force and in 2006 from NASA.

Since her retirement, Eileen Collins has received numerous awards and honors, including induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame; and her inclusion in the Encyclopedia Britannica list of 300 women who changed the world.

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