Spacewoman urges females to fly high

2010-10-17 13:48

Eileen Collins has led a fascinating life. For one, she has been around the world in 45 minutes.

In February 1995 Collins (54) became the first woman to pilot a space shuttle. And in July 1999 she became the first woman commander of a space shuttle.

She retired from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa ) in May 2006.

While in the country this week, Collins said because the space shuttle goes around Earth every 45 minutes, she was able to witness a sunrise and a sunset every 45 minutes.

Collins was selected to be an astronaut in July 1991 after having served in the US airforce for a decade.
“It was very hard to be a female pilot in the airforce in the 70s,” she said.

“Men did not accept us and we got hostile receptions from their wives and girlfriends as well. They were uncomfortable with us spending so much time with their men. It took quite a while to be accepted.”

But things were different at Nasa.

“At Nasa female astronauts were accepted immediately. No one cared if you were a man or a woman, everyone was concerned with the mission,” she said.

Collins encouraged young women to join the science and technology fields.

“Young women who like to be creative should look for careers in maths, science and engineering. There are so many things left to be invented and discovered and there are smart young women out there who can be behind these discoveries.”
According to Nasa, Collins has logged over 6?751 hours in 30 different types of aircraft and more than 872 hours in space. That’s a total of 36 days and a couple of hours.

“The best thing about being in space is looking back at Earth. I remember the first time I ever saw Earth from space.

It was my first mission in outer space and I was preoccupied with not embarrassing myself so I was busy making sure everything I was responsible for was working well.

Then my commander said to me, ‘Eileen, you’re too busy, look out the window’. It was my first sunrise in space.

I was so overwhelmed. I said out loud, ‘the earth is round!’ I’d heard it a lot but it was the first time I actually saw it with my own eyes,” Collins said.

Collins’ husband of 23 years, Pat Youngs (52), admitted that Eileen’s 16-year career had taken its toll on him and their children, Bridget (14) and Luke (9).

“We are both hard-working people but we’ve tried to be there for our kids as much as we can. It’s a balance that everybody ­struggles with,” he said.

His admiration for his wife was evident.

“The world is in need of good role models and she is able to provide that. She is an ­outstanding person,” he said.


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