Air Force Astronaut Encourages Women to Fly
By Staff Sgt. Jeff Thorson, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
MEMPHIS, Mar. 17, 2000 Lending her story to the history and future of female aviators, Air Force Col. Eileen Collins told a group of nearly 3,000 aerospace professionals about her recent mission as commander of space shuttle STS-93 Columbia.
Collins spoke to the 11th Annual Women in Aviation International Conference here March 10.
Collins became the first female space shuttle commander when the Columbia blasted off July 22. During that mission, the Columbia launched the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, which allows scientists to study phenomena such as exploding stars, quasars and black holes.
Collins launched her career in the Air Force in 1979 and has been flying high ever since.
"I learned the discipline pilots need in the military," she said. "The Air Force gave me my first big flying break."
In the service, Collins excelled in flying, and became a T-41 instructor and later a test pilot. In 1990, NASA selected her for the astronaut program. She has since logged more than 537 hours in space.
"I love aviation, love flying, and love going into space," Collins said. "Space travel is an extension of aviation. I feel privileged and lucky to have a mission in aviation and space."
Collins and Kathie Olsen, NASA’s chief scientist, unveiled the first Women in Aerospace poster at the conference. The poster depicts famous women in the aviation and aerospace industry. It encourages the advancement of people in science, engineering and technology -- asking girls in particular to consider careers in aerospace.
The Women in Aviation organization draws its more than 4,900 worldwide members from general, corporate and commercial aviation, education, government, and the military. Participants recognize the need for more women in the industry and for a support group to serve as mentors, advisors, and interested colleagues.
Editors note: Staff Sgt. Thorson is a public affairs air reserve technician with the 459th Airlift Wing at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
Visit the DoD Women's History Month web site at http://www.defenselink.mil/specials/womenshistory/.