Eileen Collins

On June 1st nine outstanding Irish Americans will be inducted into the 2013 Irish Hall of Fame at the
Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago. Among those to be honored at the evening Awards Gala
will be Eileen Marie Collins, a retired American astronaut and U.S. Air Force Colonel. A former military instructor and test pilot she was assigned (1986 to 198), to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs , Colorado, as an assistant professor in mathematics and a T-41 instructor pilot.

Daughter of James E. and Rose Marie Collins, immigrants from County Cork, Ireland,
Collins achieved several firsts in the history of space travel. In 1995 she took the helm of the Discovery, becoming the first woman to pilot a space shuttle. Collins was the first woman to command a space shuttle in 1999; and in July 2005 she commanded the much-anticipated launch of the first space shuttle since the disastrous Columbia voyage in 2003, during which all seven astronauts were killed on board. Collins’s 2005 mission was considered key to the future of manned space flight, since the focus was to test out new safety measures and repair techniques.
On being named the first female shuttle commander ,Collins 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!”
Eileen Marie Collins was born on November 19, 1956 in Elmira, New York. Her parents encouraged her dream of becoming a pilot and she earned her license while in college. She graduated from Elmira Free Academy in 1974, and received an Associate of Science degree in Mathematics from Corning Community College in 1976. She then attended Syracuse University, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics and Economics in 1978. She also received 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.
In 1979, Collins graduated from Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training at Vance Air Force Base (AFB), Oklahoma. She then served as a T-38 instructor pilot at Vance until 1982. From 1983 to 1985, she was a C-141 aircraft commander and instructor pilot at Travis AFB, California, and took part in the invasion of Grenada in October 1983. In 1986, Collins attended the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. She graduated from the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, California in 1990. Collins has logged over 5,000 hours in 30 different types of aircraft.
A veteran of four space shuttle missions (all of which launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida) Colonel Collins has logged over 537 hours in space. She first entered space on STS-63 Discovery from February 3 to 11, 1995, on the first flight of the new joint Russian-American Space Program. Mission highlights included the rendezvous with the Russian Space Station Mir, operation of Spacelab, the deployment and retrieval of an astronomy satellite, and a space walk. On this mission Eileen Collins became the first woman to pilot a Space Shuttle
Colonel Eileen Collins has received many awards, including the Defense Superior Service Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force 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), French Legion of Honor, NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, NASA Space Flight Medals, Free Spirit Award, and the National Space Trophy. Collins retired on May 1, 2006 to pursue private interests, including service as a board member of USAA. She is married with two children.

Other Inductees to the 2013 Irish American Hall of Fame Included:

Arts & Humanities : James Cagney, Harry “Bing” Crosby, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Business & Industry: Daniel Rooney, U.S. Ambassador and Chairman, Pittsburgh Steelers.
Public Service : Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Education: Archbishop John Carroll, founder of Georgetown University
Sports: Gene Tunney
Religion: Monsignor Ignatius “Father Mac” McDermott, founder of
Chicago’s Haymarket Center

The Celtic Connection has been a member of the voting body of The Irish American Hall of Fame since it was launched in in 2011
www.IAHOF.org www.NMSpaceMuseum.org

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