Campus Life

Former Astronaut Col. Eileen Collins To Speak At Texas A&M Oct. 18

The cosmic pioneer will present Astronaut Scholarship Foundation awards to two Aggie STEM majors.
By Kelli Reynolds, Texas A&M University Office of the Provost October 12, 2022

archival photo of astronaut eileen collins sitting down inside a space shuttle
American astronaut Eileen Collins, the first woman to pilot a space shuttle, at her station on the Discovery during the STS-63 mission, February 1995.

Space Frontiers/Getty Images


When Eileen Collins was launching her career in the U.S. Air Force in the late 1970s and 1980s, there were no women whose career paths she could follow. She served as a military instructor and test pilot, then became the first woman to pilot and later command a NASA shuttle.

Collins, a retired Air Force colonel, will present “Through the Glass Ceiling to the Stars” Oct. 18 on the Texas A&M University campus. The program will be from 10 – 11:30 a.m. in Rudder Auditorium and is hosted by Texas A&M LAUNCH and the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF).

Before her presentation, Collins will present two ASF scholarships of up to $15,000 – one to computer engineering senior Kevin Yao and the other to materials science and engineering senior Mack Cleveland.

The program is free and open to the public, but tickets are required for admission. Those are available from the Memorial Student Center Box Office, open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, by phone at 979-845-1234, or online.

Collins will also be signing copies of her book, “Through the Glass Ceiling to the Stars: The Story of the First American Woman to Command a Space Mission,” from 1- 3 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble Texas A&M Bookstore.

Collins became the U.S. Air Force’s first female flight instructor in 1979, and for the next 11 years taught both flying and math. She was selected as an astronaut in 1990 and became the first woman pilot of a U.S. space shuttle in 1995, serving on the orbiter Discovery for a rendezvous and docking mission to the Russian space station Mir. She piloted a second shuttle flight in May 1997, successfully docking the Atlantis with Mir to transfer personnel, equipment and supplies. In 1999, she became the first woman to command a shuttle mission.

The ASF presents the largest monetary award available to United States science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students based solely on merit. ASF has awarded more than $4 million in STEM scholarships since its establishment in 1984 by six surviving Mercury 7 astronauts. ASF scholarships to Texas A&M are also supported by The Wreyford Family Foundation.

Sumana Datta, assistant provost for undergraduate studies and executive director of LAUNCH at Texas A&M, said the scholarships provide a tremendous opportunity to showcase the excellence of the university’s best STEM majors to the world and demonstrate to students just how outstanding they are.

“Seeing their names alongside those of ASF Scholars from institutions like MIT, Georgia Tech, Michigan, Texas, Purdue and Washington University, among others, really brings home how much our ASF scholars have accomplished so far and what incredible potential for the future they represent — potential that the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation helps bring to fruition,” she said.

Media contact: Peggy Samson,

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