First female pilot and first female commander of a Space Shuttle
Although shy and timid, she pursued flight training and dismissed the premise that flying "was a guy thing" at the time. Collins began military pilot training for the Air Force in 1978, the same year that NASA opened the Shuttle program to women. Eileen became NASA's first female shuttle pilot in 1995 during the space agency's STS-63 mission aboard Discovery, and served as pilot during NASA's STS-84 Atlantis flight to the Mir station in 1997. She became NASA's first female shuttle commander in 1999 when she led the Columbia orbiter's STS-93 mission that launched the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The shuttle veteran retired from the U.S. Air Force with the rank of colonel in 2005 and logged more than 872 hours in space during her four flights. After her retirement from NASA, she made occasional public appearances as a CNN analyst covering Shuttle launches and landings.