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Famous People of the Finger Lakes

Eileen Marie Collins (1956- )


NASA Astronaut Eileen Marie Collins (1956-)Eileen Collins is a NASA astronaut. Born in Elmira, Collins graduated from Elmira Free Academy. She went on to receive an associate’s degree in science at Corning Community College, a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics and economics from Syracuse University, a master’s degree in operations research from Stanford, and a master’s degree in space systems management from Webster University.


Collins graduated from the Air Force’s Undergraduate Pilot Training Program in 1979 and eventually achieved the rank of colonel. She logged nearly 6,300 hours in 30 types of aircraft before retiring from the Air Force in January 2005.


Collins was selected for NASA in 1990 and became an astronaut in 1991. In 1995 Collins was the pilot of the space shuttle Columbia when it docked with the Russian space station Mir, becoming the first woman to pilot a space shuttle. She was commander of the 1999 flight of the Columbia, becoming the first woman to command a space shuttle. She was also commander of the 2005 flight of the Discovery.


Collins has been recognized for her achievements with the Distinguished Flying Cross, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the French Legion of Honor, and numerous other awards.


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