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First female shuttle pilot to discuss lessons from Columbia disaster


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Tonight the first female space shuttle pilot and commander is speaking at UNCW about her experiences with NASA.

Col. Eileen Collins became the first woman to pilot a shuttle in 1995 and the first commander in 1999.

Collins says she will talk about some of the lessons the space agency learned after the failed return of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

Col. Collins spent more than five weeks in space during her career as an astronaut. Tonight she will give both positive and negative examples of things said about the failed Columbia mission and things looked at from the wrong perspective that NASA could have done better.

Collins says this is a chance to share some of her lessons learned in the space program from the loss of the Shuttle Columbia in 2003. She says it has been 10 years, but we can still learn from it.

"As time goes by people have a tendancy to forget some of the lessons learned, but these things don't just apply to the space program," Collins said. "They apply to pretty much everything in life, whether it's a business, education or even your family life. I want to talk about some of the things that we learned how to do better to run a program more successful."

Collins says hopefully these messages will continue, because she does not want us to forget the people who lost their lives or make the same mistakes.

Collins was first a test pilot for the US Air Force and was chosen for the astronaut program, which eventually landed her leadership roles with NASA. She thinks it was a great opportunity for her to go to space because while she did not have much growing up, she learned to work hard.

Collins says you can achieve your dreams if you work toward a goal, realize you are going to make mistakes along the way and keep working toward it.

"I think I was very lucky to have the timing and to have the ability and the opportunity to apply to the NASA Astronaut Program and eventually get selected and have the opportunity to fly in space," Collins said.

Collins's last shuttle flight was seven years ago. She says she is focusing on family and raising her kids now.

Her lecture "Leadership Lessons from Apollo to Discovery" is at UNCW's Burney Center at 7 p.m.

Photo courtesy: NASA

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