Syracuse University

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Eileen Collins

The first female astronaut to pilot a space shuttle.

Among the things astronaut Eileen Collins carried aboard the space shuttle Discovery in February 1995 were items belonging to pioneer female aviators, including a scarf once worn by Amelia Earhart. As the first female astronaut to pilot a shuttle, Collins was aware of the historic significance of that flight and bringing those items was her way to honor the women who shared her dream of soaring through space.

Two years later, she again piloted a flight to the Mir space station, this time aboard the shuttle Atlantis. In 1999, as the first female commander of a shuttle mission, aboard Columbia, she made history yet again. In all, she logged more than 872 hours in space before retiring from the Air Force with the rank of lieutenant colonel in 2005 and from NASA in 2006.

Among her many honors are the U.S. Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross, the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Superior Service Medal, and the French Legion of Honor.