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Cradle of Aviation Museum Annual Air and Space Gala

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Celebrating Women in Aviation

Col. Eileen Collins became the first female to pilot a U.S. spacecraft and the first female commander on a shuttle flight.

Lt. Colonel Eileen Marie Collins was born in Elmira, New York on November 19, 1956. As a child, Eileen dreamed about space and of becoming a pilot. Her parents often took her to the airport to watch the planes take off and land. The Collins family wanted Eileen to attend college, but did not have the money to send her. After high school, she attended Corning Community College. While there, she studied hard to earn a two year scholarship to Syracuse University. In 1978 Eileen Collins graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics and economics from Syracuse University. Later, she went on to earn a master of science degree in operations research from Stanford University and a master of arts degree in space systems management from Webster University.

In 1979, Lt. Colonel Collins graduated from Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training at Vance Air Force Base. In 1990, while attending the Air Force Test Pilot School, she was selected for the astronaut program. Eileen Collins became an astronaut in July 1991 and the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle on February 2, 1995. She made history once again in 1999. On July 23 Lt. Colonel Collins became the first woman to command a Space Shuttle mission. She retired from NASA in 2006.

Eileen Collins is a wife and mother. She met her husband when both were flying C-14s in the military. In her spare time she enjoys running, golf, hiking, camping, reading, photography, and astronomy.

Women in Aviation Panel Discussion