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First Woman Space Shuttle Commander Visits San Antonio Girl Scouts

First shuttle commander Eileen Collins demonstrating shuttle flight.
Brian Kirkpatrick | Texas Public Radio
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First shuttle commander Eileen Collins demonstrating shuttle flight.

The first woman to command a space shuttle mission spoke to Girl Scouts on San Antonio’s West Side on Thursday, telling them to them to never place limits on their ambitions. 

Eileen Collins commanded the space shuttle Columbia when it launched an X-ray observatory in July 1999, and retired from NASA in 2006.

She told the girls attending a summer camp on West Cesar Chavez Boulevard they are good enough to do anything they want.

She said women were traditionally banned from the Air Force test pilot program, but that changed in the 1970s, enabling women to rise through the ranks in NASA.

The former Girl Scout believes it’s important to be seen as a role model for young women.

“They see at a young age that they can be pilots, they can go in the military, they can be astronauts, they can work at NASA, so they start thinking about it at a younger age, and because of that you’re going to see more women in the programs in the future,” she said.

Collins said she hopes more women can soon have the opportunity to make their own trips to the moon, which she believes could be used to test equipment for an eventual mission to Mars. She added the moon could also serve as a base for backup supplies for trips to the Red Planet, especially since Mars is much further away from Earth.

“If you’re six months away and things start breaking it’s going to be very hard to fix things and get parts when you are that far away,” she said.

Additionally, she believes destinations beyond Mars will be possible one day.

“What I tell young people is someday one of you will invent or discover a new way to explore, a new means of propulsion that will get us farther away, much faster,” Collins said.

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at Brian@TPR.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian.