Eileen Collins was born in Elmira, N.Y. in a lower-middle class family. Eileen’s love of science came early, in the halls of her hometown library. After receiving her Bachelor’s in mathematics and economics from Syracuse University, she joined an Air Force pilot training program. Out of a class of 320, she was one of only four women chosen.
After climbing the ranks within the US Air Force for over a decade, Collins applied to NASA in 1989 while studying to become an Air Force Test Pilot. In 1991, Collins joined NASA, becoming the first woman to go through pilot training for the space shuttle program and, only a few years later, she would become the space shuttle’s first female pilot. In 1999, she would break another barrier: becoming the first woman to command a space shuttle mission. During her NASA career, Collins flew on a total of four shuttle missions, two as a pilot and two as a commander.