Eileen Collins is a retired NASA astronaut and United States Air Force colonel. She was the first female pilot and first female commander of a Space Shuttle. Eileen has been recognized by Encyclopædia Britannica as one of the top 300 women in history who have changed the world. She has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall Of Fame and the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame. Her new book is called Through the Glass Ceiling to the Stars: The Story of the First American Woman to Command a Space Mission.
Some interesting insights from this episode:
- Her father was an alcoholic and her mother was institutionalized but she didn’t let anything from her childhood define her for the rest of her life.
- She never shared her dream of becoming an astronaut with anyone until she got accepted into the astronaut training program. She didn’t feel anyone would be supportive.
- It takes a tremendous amount of focus and discipline to fly a jet but she wasn’t always wired that way. These are skills that can be learned.
- When she gets nervous, to calm herself down, she would envision herself not as Eileen Collins but as the Commander of a spaceship.
- To be a good leader, you have to learn to listen to others and to be humble when you listen to them. People won’t respect you as a leader if you’re telling others what to do all the time.
- An investigation into the Space Shuttle Columbia accident revealed that a big contributing factor was NASA’s culture. People weren’t listening. People assigned to safety were being intimated and weren’t speaking up. And they weren’t thinking creatively.
- “Excellence is about knowledge, communicating openly and having high integrity.”