When presented with the opportunity to attend a lecture by Eileen Collins in conjunction with Space Lectures how could I refuse? Eileen was the first woman to both pilot and command a US space shuttle and I couldn’t wait to hear more about her experiences in this male-dominated environment.
We arrived at Carleton Community High School in Pontefract and immediately were surrounded by ‘space’! The entrance area was awash with pin badges, postcards, books, photos and even a little boy in a full NASA boiler suit. There was a buzz of excitement in the air and it was evident that the space enthusiasts in the audience couldn’t wait to meet Colonel Collins!
Eileen was introduced and stood in front of a backdrop of herself in full astronaut gear – a sight to behold! For those of you who don’t know, having previously been a pilot in the U.S Air Force, in 1995 Eileen became the first woman to pilot a space shuttle – the space shuttle is a manned spacecraft that has a has a particular job (mission) to carry out – the aim of this mission was to retrieve a astronomy satellite, she then became the first woman to command a space shuttle in 1999. In 2005, she commanded the first space shuttle since the Columbia disaster in 2003 in which all seven astronauts were killed, a feat which must have taken great courage. The aim of this mission was to test out new safety measures and repair techniques in the hope that this could prevent further disasters.
This mission in 2005 lasted 14 days and most of this time was spent docked at the International Space Station (ISS) where the American astronauts met their Russian counterparts who were extremely pleased to see them, especially as they arrived with supplies of coffee amongst other things! She showed us amazing video footage of the shuttle docking at the ISS and some of the tasks that were undertaken. I was in awe of the bravery of these astronauts making their space walks. She also showed us some pictures taken by members of her crew; these included photos of the Himalayas, the Suez Canal, New York and the Southern lights! The astronauts definitely get to see a very different view of the world from space!
Eileen also talked in detail about her involvement in each of these missions and how she made the transition from pilot to commander – a role that she described as requiring her to be open and humble, not traits you would always associate with a leader! She also offered some very good advice to all you budding astronauts out there – make sure you study hard at Maths and Science!!
Eileen finished her talk with mention of the future – she thinks that the ISS could be used for tourists to visit. I wonder how long the waiting list would be for people wanting to visit and look down on our wonderful planet?
After the talk had finished Eileen signed photographs and other memorabilia and as we waited until the end we were lucky enough to spend five minutes talking to her. Mrs Pheasey showed Eileen the work that has been done by all the pupils at Rode Heath Primary School and I think that she was more than impressed with the space passports, the 3d printing and all the other activities that have taken place this year. She was also very interested in the Google hangout with Tim Peake and said that she knew lots of children who would be very excited about doing something like that.
All in all, I have to say that the day was OUT OF THIS WORLD!! @OotW_UK