School News

Eileen Collins, Astronaut, Visits Birkdale School

Eileen Collins, American astronaut, the first woman to pilot and, later, to command a U.S. space shuttle came to speak to students at Birkdale.


Eileen’s love of airplanes and flying began as a child. At age 19 she saved money earned from part-time jobs and began taking flying lessons and later became one of only four women admitted to Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma. She continued her training at the Air Force’s Institute of Technology and was one of the first women to attend Air Force Test Pilot School, from which she graduated in 1990.

Selected as an astronaut in 1990, she became the first woman pilot of a U.S. space shuttle in February 1995, serving on the orbiter Discovery for a rendezvous and docking mission to the Russian space station Mir. With hundreds of hours in space to her credit, Eileen became the first woman to command a shuttle mission in July 1999, taking Columbia into Earth orbit to deploy the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Her talk was inspirational. She discussed her experience of her last mission from launch to returning back to earth aided by excellent visuals taken at the time. She described the many space walks that took place, the experiments, how the astronauts eat and sleep on board and the issues experienced with weightlessness after 15 days in space. Photos were also shown that were taken of specific parts of the world - again for research purposes.

Finally she set a challenge to the students for someone to discover how to create gravity to allow people to live on the moon in the future!


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