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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 5, 1998
                       Making History For Women:
                      The President and First Lady 
               Announce the First Woman Shuttle Commander

                             March 5, 1998

Today, President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will announce the first woman to command a Space Shuttle flight -- Lieutenant Colonel Eileen Collins. This announcement is one of several science events taking place at the White House this week and kicks off the White House's celebration of Women's History Month. As we mark these observances, it is especially appropriate to recognize those living examples of women's history -- like Eileen Collins -- who inspire us all.

Lt. Col. Collins will command the Columbia Space Shuttle (Space Transportation System 93) which is scheduled for launch in December of 1998. This mission will launch the largest X-ray ever flown which will help us examine some of the most distant and powerful objects in our universe. A former math and engineering professor and a veteran of two space flights, Lt. Col. Collins served as the first female shuttle pilot and has logged over 400 hours in space. As the Commander of STS-93, Lt. Col. Collins will be responsible for all other astronauts on the mission, the deployment of the X-ray system, the safety of the flight and the overall success of the entire mission.

This Announcement Builds on the Clinton Administration's Support of Space Exploration:

The International Space Station: Beginning this year, men and women from sixteen countries will build a foothold in the heavens -- the international space station. By the end of 1997, 200,000 pounds of flight-quality hardware had been built, ready to go into space. The International Space Station will be a permanent laboratory where gravity, temperature, and pressure can be manipulated in a variety of scientific and engineering pursuits impossible on Earth.

Mars Pathfinder: On July 4, 1997, NASA's Pathfinder spacecraft landed on Mars, the first landing on the Red Planet since the Viking missions in 1976. The spacecraft's small rover wheeled around the terrain of Mars, transmitting breathtaking views of the landscape to Earth. During its 30-day mission, the Pathfinder returned a wealth of new information from the planet, including data on the atmosphere, weather and geology of Mars. In all, Pathfinder returned 1.2 billion bits of data and almost 10,000 pictures of the Martian landscape.

This Announcement also Highlights the Importance of Science and Math to our Future:

Raise Standards and Measure Student Performance with a Voluntary National Test in Mathematics in 8th Grade: The President is leading a national campaign for a voluntary national test in mathematics to let parents and teachers know how individual students and schools can improve in relation to rigorous national and international standards and to determine whether students are adequately prepared to take demanding high school mathematics and science.

A Strong Foundation in the Middle Grades: The President's FY99 budget requests approximately $60 million to improve mathematic achievement in the middle grades. This funding will support a joint initiative by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation to support local efforts to put in place rigorous courses and challenging standards. It will also promote improved mathematics teaching by elementary and middle school teachers by supporting effective teacher training through updating content knowledge while still ensuring mastery of the basics of computation.


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     "We must continue to push the limits of science and technology,
      and to continue to explore the universe."
                                     President Clinton
                                     Announcement of the White House
                                     Millennium Program, Aug. 15, 1997

Ensuring U.S. Leadership in Science and Space Exploration

Investing in Science and Technology -- Under President Clinton, investments in science and technology have increased for five years in a row, while the budget deficit has continued to come down. The President maintains this commitment in his most recent budget. The National Science Foundation (NSF), which supports much of the research that trains the next generation of America's scientists and engineers, receives an increase in funding by 10% ($344 million), to $3.8 billion in FY99. This increase is the largest ever for NSF, and includes a boost of more than 16% for computer science research. In addition, a new partnership between the Education Department and the National Science Foundation receives $75 million per year for research aimed at raising student achievement through learning technologies.

Supporting Space Exploration -- Issued in 1996, the President's National Space Policy commits the nation to a strong, stable, and balanced space program. The FY99 budget submission of $13.5 billion achieves this goal, enabling NASA to pursue the Administration's priorities in human space flight, earth sciences, advanced space transportation, aviation safety and space science. Through the 21st Century Research Fund for America, the President adds $700 million over five years to NASA's space science program.

Providing New Scientific Insights and Making New Discoveries -- In 1997 alone, NASA made historic strides in space exploration. NASA landed the Pathfinder spacecraft on Mars -- the first landing on the Red Planet since 1976 -- and then Pathfinder's small rover, the Sojourner, explored the surface of Mars. NASA launched the Cassini mission which will arrive at Saturn in 2004. In addition, the Galileo mission discovered potential evidence of subsurface water on Jupiter's Europa. In 1998, the U.S. and its partners will begin construction of the International Space Station to establish our permanent human presence in space. Before the end of the millennium, NASA will launch an additional seven missions into deep space.

Protecting the Environment and Providing Better Information on Weather Phenomena -- The Clinton Administration is applying science to local, regional, and global environmental challenges. The Administration is building new monitoring systems to provide better information for natural resource management and reduction of the impacts of natural disasters. For example, NASA satellites have provided the best views of the El Nino's weather phenomena.

Strengthening International Scientific Ties -- The Administration has helped blaze the trail in international science and technology cooperation. The agreement to join with scientists from 45 countries to build the Large Hadron Collider for high energy physics research in Europe is a key milestone for international partnerships in science and technology -- one which will become a standard for our domestic science programs in the future.

Achieving Greater Diversity in our Scientific Workforce -- The Clinton Administration has expanded opportunities for women, minorities and people with disabilities to pursue scientific and technical careers through programs like the Alliance for Minority Participation at the National Science Foundation and a new Presidential mentoring award.

Eileen Marie Collins (Lieutenant Colonel, USAF)

Lieutenant Colonel Eileen Collins has wanted to fly since an early age, when she watched planes land and takeoff at the local airport in her hometown of Elmira, NY. Lt. Col. Collins came from a modest background and flying lessons weren't cheap. While most teenagers take a job for extra spending money or a car, Lt. Col. Collins sought odd jobs to save money for flying lessons.

When she was nineteen, Lt. Col. Collins had finally saved enough to begin taking lessons to be a pilot. While she logged time as a pilot, she studied math and science at Corning Community College. After two years at the local community college, she was given an ROTC scholarship to study math and economics at Syracuse University. Through the ROTC she joined the Air Force in 1976, the first year the Air Force accepted women pilots.

Upon graduation in 1978, she was assigned to Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, where she became a T-38 instructor pilot after she completed Air Force Pilot Training. This was the first year the Air Force accepted females to be trained as pilots. Eileen was one of only 4 women in a class of 504. The T-38 is the same aircraft used for astronaut pilot training.

She remained an instructor at Vance AFB until 1983, when she was assigned as a C-141 Transport commander and instructor at Travis AFB in California. From 1986 to 1989, Collins received the opportunity to mentor and support the next generation of pilots, especially female pilots, at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. She was a T-41 instructor and an assistant professor of mathematics at the Academy. Lt. Col. Collins distinguished herself as the second woman pilot to graduate from the Air Force Test Pilot School in 1990. While testing the next generation of aircraft, she received word that she had been selected as a member of the next astronaut class.

NASA chose Lt. Col. Collins to be the pilot on the first U.S.-Russian Shuttle/Mir rendezvous in 1995. The mission was a test of precision and cooperation between the American and Russian space agencies before the docking of the Space Shuttle and the Mir Space Station. Lt. Col. Collins was the first female ever to pilot a Shuttle on that mission. Subsequently, she was assigned to be the pilot on the sixth U.S./Russia Shuttle-Mir docking mission.

Lt. Col. Collins was recently chosen to be the first woman ever to command a Shuttle mission. She has been selected to command STS-93 scheduled for launch in December 1998. The mission will deploy the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility Imaging System designed to conduct comprehensive studies of the universe. She has logged over 4,700 hours in 30 different types of aircraft, over 400 hours in space, traveled over 6.5 million miles and orbited the earth 274 times.

Lt. Col. Collins was born November 19, 1956 in Elmira, New York, to James and Rose Collins. She is married to Pat Youngs, a pilot for Delat Airlines, originally from San Antonio, Texas. His parents are Pat and Jackie Youngs.