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Eileen Marie Collins (b. November 19, 1956 in Elmira, New Yorkmarker) is a retired Americanmarker astronaut and a retired U.S. 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. Col. Collins has logged 38 days 8 hours and 10 minutes in outer space. Collins retired on May 1, 2006 to pursue private interests, including service as a board member of USAA.

She is married with two children.

Astronaut experience

Collins 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.
Commander Collins and STS-114 crew on their way to launch pad.
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 of 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 been seen as a Space Shuttle analyst generally covering Shuttle launches and landings for CNN.

Personal life

Collins's parents were James E. and Rose Marie Collins. She has three siblings. As a child, Collins expressed an interest both in space flight and in being a pilot.

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 Universitymarker in 1978 and then earned a master of science degree in operations research from Stanford Universitymarker in 1986 and a master of arts degree in space systems management from Webster Universitymarker in 1989. Collins attended the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School and graduated with class 89B.

Collins married pilot Pat Youngs in 1987 and they have two children.

Awards and honors

Collins has received the Defense Superior Service Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Air Force Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for service in Grenada (Operation Urgent Fury), the French Legion of Honor, NASA's Outstanding Leadership Medal and Space Flight Medals, the Free Spirit Award, and the National Space Trophy. Collins also has a Space Observatory named in her honor- The Eileen Collins Observatory- run by the State University of New York system (SUNY).

Collins is an inductee of the National Womens Hall Of Fame. She has also been recognized by Encyclopedia Britannica as one of the top 300 women in history who have changed the world.

The main entrance boulevard to Syracuse Hancock International Airportmarker is named in Collins's honor.

The New York State Legislature passed a resolution honoring her career on May 9, 2006. The resolution, which touches on the many highlights of Collins's career, reads, in part, "It is the sense of this Legislative Body to take note of and publicly acknowledge the significant milestones of those individuals from this noble Empire State who have distinguished themselves through their exemplary careers, pioneering spirit and purposeful lives." It was sponsored by State Senator George Winner in the State Senate and Assemblyman Thomas F. O'Mara in the Assembly.

Elmira Collegemarker awarded Eileen Collins an honorary Doctor of Science degree at the college's 148th Commencement Ceremony on June 4, 2006.

The Women's Board of the Adler Planetariummarker awarded Eileen Collins their Women in Space Science Award on June 7, 2006.

University College Dublinmarker conferred on Colonel Collins the honorary Doctor of Science degree of the National University of Ireland on 14 June 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.

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. Official NASA Bio
  2. STS-114 Eileen Collins Crew Profile
  3. Spacefacts biography of Eileen Collins
  4. A 1999 Us Magazine profile
  5. article detailing the announcement of her retirement 1 May 2006
  6. Hall of Fame page
  7. Britannica page
  8. First woman to pilot NASA space shuttle honoured by UCD June 2006

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