First female commander of a Space Shuttle
"Eileen Collins is a retired NASA astronaut and a retired United States Air Force colonel. A former military instructor and test pilot, Collins was the first female pilot and first female commander of a Space Shuttle. She was awarded several medals for her work. Colonel Collins has logged 38 days 8 hours and 20 minutes in outer space. Collins retired on May 1, 2006, to pursue private interests, including service as a board member of USAA...
After graduating from Elmira Free Academy in 1974, Collins attended Corning Community College where she earned an associate degree in mathematics/science in 1976. She graduated from Syracuse University in 1978 with the bachelor of arts in mathematics and economics, then earned a master of science degree in operations research from Stanford University in 1986, and a master of arts degree in space systems management from Webster University in 1989.
Following graduation from Syracuse, she was one of four women chosen for Undergraduate Pilot Training at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. After earning her pilot wings, she stayed on at Vance for three years as a T-38 Talon instructor pilot before transitioning to the C-141 Starlifter at Travis Air Force Base, California. From 1986 to 1989, she was assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado, where she was an assistant professor in mathematics and a T-41 instructor pilot. In 1989, Collins became the second female pilot to attend the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School and graduated with class 89B. She was selected for the astronaut program in 1990.
Collins was selected to be an astronaut in 1990 and first flew the Space Shuttle as pilot in 1995 aboard STS-63, which involved a rendezvous between Discovery and the Russian space station Mir. In recognition of her achievement as the first female Shuttle Pilot, she received the Harmon Trophy. She was also the pilot for STS-84 in 1997.
Collins was also the first female commander of a U.S. Spacecraft with Shuttle mission STS-93, launched in July 1999, which deployed the Chandra X-Ray Observatory.
Collins commanded STS-114, NASA's "return to flight" mission to test safety improvements and resupply the International Space Station (ISS). The flight was launched on July 26, 2005, and returned on August 9, 2005. During STS-114, Collins became the first astronaut to fly the Space Shuttle through a complete 360-degree pitch maneuver. This was necessary so astronauts aboard the ISS could take photographs of the Shuttle's belly, to ensure there was no threat from debris-related damage to the Shuttle upon reentry.
On May 1, 2006, Collins announced that she would leave NASA to spend more time with her family and pursue other interests. Since her retirement from NASA, she has made occasional public appearances as an analyst covering Shuttle launches and landings for CNN...
Collins has also received the Free Spirit Award, and the 2006 National Space Trophy, and has an astronomical observatory named in her honor—the Eileen M. Collins Observatory—run by Corning Community College.
Collins is an inductee of the National Women's Hall Of Fame. She has also been recognized by Encyclopædia Britannica as one of the top 300 women in history who have changed the world...
The Women's Board of the Adler Planetarium awarded Eileen Collins their Women in Space Science Award on June 7, 2006.
University College Dublin conferred on Colonel Collins the honorary Doctor of Science degree of the National University of Ireland on June 14, 2006.
In 2007, the Space Foundation awarded Collins the Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award, which is given annually to an individual or organization that has made significant contributions to public awareness of space programs.
On April 19, 2013, Eileen Collins was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.
Collins is also a member of the Air Force Association, Order of Daedalians, Women Military Aviators, U.S. Space Foundation, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Ninety-Nines." (1)