2023 Gala Honoree – Eileen M. Collins

Palm Springs Air Museum 2023 Gala Honoree Eileen M Collins

Eileen M. Collins is a former astronaut and a retired U.S. Air Force colonel. She retired from the Air Force in Jan 2005 and from Nasa in May 2006 after a 28-year distinguished career. A former military instructor and test pilot, Collins was the first female pilot and first female commander of a space shuttle.

During her early career as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, Collins flew the T-41 Mescalero, T-37 Tweet, T-38 Talon, and the C-141 Starlifter. Then, she was selected for the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force base. 

At Edwards, she flew several types of aircraft, including the Lockheed Tr-1, P-3 Orion and the C-130 Hercules, the de Havilland Canada UV-18 Twin Otter, the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, Cessna A-37 Dragonfly, Learjet 24, Beechcraft King Air, General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F-111, McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, Vought A-7 Corsair II and the Goodyear Blimp. Collins graduated from the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California in 1990.

She was selected by NASA and became an astronaut in July 1991. After tours at Kennedy Space Center (shuttle launch and landing) and Johnson Space Center (shuttle engineer and capsule communicator), she flew the space shuttle as the pilot in 1995 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. She was also the pilot for Space Shuttle Atlantic in 19971, where her crew docked with Russian Space Station MIR. Collins became the first woman commander of a U.S. spacecraft with a mission aboard Space Shuttle Columbia in 1999, the deployment of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Her final space flight was as commander of Space Shuttle Discovery in 2005, the “Return to Flight Mission” after the tragic loss of Columbia. She has logged more than 6,651 hours in 30 different types of aircraft and more than 872 hours in space as a veteran of four space flights. 

Collins currently serves on several boards and advisory panels, is a professional speaker and an aerospace consultant. She is married with two children. 

Collins is also a member of the Air Force Association, Order of Daedalians, Women in Aviators, Women in Aviation International, U.S. Space Foundation, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Ninety-Nines.