Eileen Collins explained her work ethic towards successful leadership is based on “watching mistakes (rather) than watching people who were perfect.”
After becoming the first woman to pilot the Shuttle in 1995, and then later the first woman to serve as Shuttle commander in 1999, Collins is about to lead the first Return to Flight mission since Columbia in 2003.
“One time we were walking and a jet was passing overhead, and she looked up and said, ‘I wonder why there’s a stream behind some jets and not others,’ ” said Booth, now a school nurse in Elmira, NY. “She was always trying to figure things out.”
In the days when few girls were encouraged to pursue interests in science and engineering, Collins funded her way through flying lessons and landed herself a place at Syracuse University where she joined the Air Force upon graduating.
Here, Collins met husband Pat Youngs, who is today a pilot with Delta Airlines. They have two children – a daughter, aged 9 and a son, 4.
In combining her role as NASA astronaut and mother, Collins recalled the morning of the Columbia disaster – a Saturday, when Collins was watching NASA’s TV channel with her son. She told a reporter that as soon as she learnt that communication had been lost with the Shuttle crew and the vehicle subsequently destroyed, she had found some toys to keep her son occupied. Thankfully, she went on to remark, he was too young to realise what was going on.
Pat Youngs said of himself and his wife that they are “maybe a little bit more aware of things that can happen [in flight]”. “It’s just what we do” he added.
Of his wife’s next space flight mission STS-114, Youngs commented that although risk could never be eliminated, they had both decided that NASA had done everything in its power to ensure the Shuttle was safe enough to Return to Flight.
“We don’t really sit around thinking, ‘This could happen, that could happen.’ ” Youngs concluded.