Meet: Lt. Col. Eileen M. Collins, First Woman Shuttle Commander
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"Dreams Do Come True"
U.S.A.F. Lt. Col. Eileen Marie Collins is the first woman ever selected to be a space shuttle pilot and the first woman to command a space shuttle. In the Air Force she was a T-38 instructor pilot and a C-141 aircraft commander. Today she has flown more than 5,000 hours in more than 30 type of aircraft.
When Commander Collins, 42, and her crew launch into space on Columbia in Spring 1999, she will be taking with her the hopes and dreams of a nation of young people here on Earth. She's an energetic and slender woman with short, curly hair and friendly brown eyes.
Eileen grew up in a family with two brothers, a sister and "two very supportive parents." Her parents, Jim and Rose Collins describe her as "a very ordinary person, a down-to-earth individual. She's very thoughtful. Nobody handed her anything. Everything she is today, she's earned."
About high school she said, "I began reading voraciously about famous pilots, from Amelia Earhart to Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) who played an important role in WWII. Their stores inspired me. I admired the courage of these women to go and fly into dangerous situations!"
By 1977 Eileen had saved enough money to earn a pilot's license and the following year graduated from Syracuse University. With good grades, flying experience and a letter of recommendation from her ROTC supervisor, she became one of the first women to go straight from college into Air Force pilot training. "That was by far the biggest break of my life, getting into pilot training." This is the point where Eileen set her goals on staying competitive for becoming an astronaut.
Eileen is not only an astronaut but also a wife and the mother of a young daughter. She met her husband, Pat, while they were flying C-141s together in the military. It was while at the U.S.A.F. Academy that they married in the Academy chapel.
At the official announcement of Commander Collins as the First Woman Space Shuttle Commander in the White House on March 5, 1998, Eileen smiled broadly and said, "When I was a child, I dreamed about space - I admired pilots, astronauts, and I've admired explorers of all kinds. It was only a dream that I would someday be one of them. It is my hope that all children, boys and girls, will see this mission and be inspired to reach for their dreams, because dreams do come true!"
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