Eileen Marie Collins (born November 19, 1956) is a retired NASA astronaut and United States Air Force colonel. A former military instructor and test pilot, Collins was the first female pilot and first female commander of a Space Shuttle. She was awarded several medals for her work. Colonel Collins has logged 38 days 8 hours and 20 minutes in outer space. Collins retired on May 1, 2006, to pursue private interests, including service as a board member of USAA.
Collins was born in Elmira, New York. Her parents were James E. and Rose Marie Collins. According to a speech she gave when she was inducted into the Irish American 2016 Hall of Fame, her ancestors came to America in the mid-1800s, settling in Pennsylvania and Elmira, New York. She has three siblings. As a child, she participated in Girl Scouts, and expressed an interest both in space flight and in being a pilot.
After graduating from Elmira Free Academy in 1974, Collins attended Corning Community College where she earned an associate degree in mathematics/science in 1976. She graduated from Syracuse University in 1978 with a bachelor of arts in mathematics and economics, then earned a master of science degree in operations research from Stanford University in 1986, and a master of arts degree in space systems management from Webster University in 1989.