New shuttle commander to take 'one big step for women'
March 5, 1998
Clinton congratulates Collins at a speech Thursday in the Roosevelt Room
Web posted at: 1:31 p.m. EST (1831 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Lt. Col. Eileen Collins, the nation's
first female space shuttle pilot, soared to yet another
milestone Thursday as President Clinton officially named her
the first woman to lead a U.S. space mission.
Collins was promoted to space shuttle flight commander at a
White House ceremony Thursday with the president and first
lady Hillary Rodham Clinton on hand. It was the first time a
woman has been named to the job.
Flanked by members of NASA and representatives of Congress,
Mrs. Clinton made the announcement, saying Collins will take
"one big step for women and one giant leap for humanity." (234K/22 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
"To discover new worlds, we must break down old
barriers," said NASA Administrator Dan Goldin, also at the
The landmark announcement was at the centerpiece of a
week-long effort by the Clinton administration to highlight
achievements in science and math. It also coincides with the
beginning of National Women's History Month.
The mission that Collins will command (STS-93, scheduled for
December 1998 departure) will launch the most advanced X-ray
telescope ever flown, allowing scientists to examine some of
the astral bodies most distant from Earth.
|Sounds from the ceremony
|Clinton congratulates Collins|
||303K/25 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
|Collins talks about those who inspired her|
||250K/23 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
|Hillary Rodham Clinton on her personal fascination with space|
||321K/29 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
|Goldin: "To discover new worlds, we must break down old barriers ..."|
||263K/25 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
The New York native, a self-described amateur astronomer,
said her hobby gives her a personal interest in the
telescope's launch. Ever since her youth, she said, "I have
been fascinated by astronomy, and in all kinds of science ...
it was only a dream of mine that someday I'd have the
opportunity to be part of such an important astronomy mission
as this one.
"In my career in the U.S. military and with NASA, I've been
given important jobs and responsibilities," Collins said. "I
now accept this responsibility with all the determination and
the motivation and the diligence that I've had in all the
other challenges I've faced."
Collins, a 41-year-old veteran of two shuttle flights, is
used to the spotlight: She graduated in 1990 as the Air
Force's second female test pilot, and in the same year became
the first woman chosen by NASA as a space shuttle pilot.
Dozens of female airplane pilots gathered in Cape Canaveral,
Florida, when she rocketed into orbit aboard Discovery on
February 3, 1995. The flight was the first of the new joint
Russian-American space program.
"I didn't get here alone," Collins said after she was
introduced. "There's so many women throughout the century
that have gone before me and have taken to the skies" who
served as her role models, starting with "the first
barnstormers" through "the Mercury women in the 1960s who
went through all the tough medical testing to become the
first astronauts." (312K/27 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
"I wouldn't be here without them today," she said.
Collins aboard Discovery in 1995
Collins joined NASA in January 1990 and became an astronaut
in July 1991. She is one of 27 women out of 229 people who
have flown in the history of the space shuttle program, and
has logged more than 419 hours in space.
She also has logged 4,700 hours in 30 different types of
She and the first lady were to visit Dunbar Senior High
School later in the day to talk about the importance of
studying math and science. "I hope there will be girls in
the audience who look up at her and say, that's what I want
to do," Mrs. Clinton said.