Fifteen years ago, on July 23, 1999, Eileen Collins became the first female commander of a U.S. spacecraft. STS-93 launched the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Collins and her crew returned to Earth on July 29. This week, we celebrate that accomplishment.
Also this week, Lofty Ambitions celebrates Collins’s command on STS-114, which launched on July 26, 2005, and landed that August 9. Collins was circling the globe on this date just nine years ago. That was a Return-To-Flight mission in which she flew the first-ever 360-degree maneuver so that the orbiter could be photographed by the crew aboard the International Space Station and be checked for possible damage to the tiles on its underside.
Collins had already become the first female Shuttle pilot aboard STS-63 in 1995 and repeated her pilot role on STS-84 two years later. That’s right—a four-time Shuttle astronaut.
We talked to Eileen Collins in 2012, and we’re excited to share the video of our conversation for the first time this week. Collins is one of the most gracious, vibrant, and diplomatic astronauts we’ve met.