First Woman Space Shuttle Commander Announced

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 5, 1998


The Roosevelt Room

11:34 A.M. EST

COL. COLLINS: Mr. President, Mrs. Clinton, andAdministrator Goldin, I just can't tell you how much of an honor itis for me to be here today. And I'm just so excited about thisopportunity that I have to command a space shuttle flight. And Iwant to tell you that since I was a child I've dreamed about space.I've admired pilots, astronauts, and I've admired explorers of allkinds. And it was only a dream of mine that I would someday be oneof them and have these kinds of opportunities.

Throughout my life I've studied the universe that welive in and I've just been fascinated by astronomy and all kinds ofscience. And again, it was only a dream of mine that someday I'dhave the opportunity to be part of such an important astronomymission as this one, the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility. Andthroughout my life, and in particular, in my career in the U.S.military and with NASA, I've been given important jobs andresponsibilities, and I now accept this responsibility with all thedetermination and the motivation and the diligence that I've had inall the other challenges I've faced.

I also think it's important that I point out that Ididn't get here alone. There are so many women throughout thiscentury that have gone before me and have taken to the skies. Fromthe first barnstormers through the women military Air Force servicepilots from World War II, the Mercury women from back in the early1960s that went through all the tough medical testing to become thefirst astronauts, to the first women who entered the Air Force andNavy military pilot training in the mid 1970s, and most important,the first women astronauts -- and I'd like to point out Sally Ride,who is with us here today -- all these women have been my role modelsand my inspiration and I couldn't be here today without them. AndI'd like to say a special thank you to them. (Applause.)

And additionally, while I've got the podium, I'd like toin particular thank my family and my friends, especially my parents,who have been my best teachers and have been my mentors throughout mylife. I'd like to recognize my husband, who is here with me today.Without him, without the unfailing support that he has provided tome, I couldn't be here today. (Applause.)

And now it's time to for us to focus on this mission.On STS-93, our crew will deploy the Advanced X-ray AstrophysicsFacility, or AXAF. As an amateur astronomer, I'm personally excitedabout the information this telescope will bring back to us. We'lllearn more about the characteristics of individual stars, binarystars, galaxies, clusters of galaxies, and quasars.

Since high-energy X-rays can penetrate through gas anddust, and detect objects that are 100 times fainter than the current

X-ray satellite that we have in orbit right now, AXAF will teach usabout the beginning, the evolution, the current structure, andpossibly even the fate of the universe that we live in. And our crewis very excited about this mission.

But there's still much work left to be done between nowand our December flight. There's training, testing, traveling, therewill be flying and more simulators and constant practice. Todaywe're just getting started. Our crew will focus on this mission 100percent, and we will make it one of NASA's greatest success.

In conclusion, it's my hope that all children, boys andgirls, will see this mission and be inspired to reach for theirdreams, too, because dreams do come true.

Thank you. (Applause.) And now it is my honor tointroduce to you the President of the United States.

Mr. President. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: I'm getting my facts straight.(Laughter.) First of all, let me say that Hillary and I aredelighted to have all of you here. The story Hillary told about herfascination with space is not apocryphal, it is real. I heard it along time before I ever thought she would be telling it before amicrophone. And so this is a thrilling day for us.

I want to thank Dan Goldin and all the people at NASAfor doing an absolutely superb job. Thank you, Colonel Collins, foryour remarks and your example. To the members of Congress who arehere -- Congressman Houghton, and Representatives Jackson Lee, EddieBernice Johnson, and Zoe Lofgren -- thank you for your support. Iwant to thank my Science Advisor, Jack Gibbons, as well as Sally Rideand Jeanne Fallin (phonetic), a pioneer aviator, who are here.

Let me also say that Colonel Collins's husband is also apilot, and when she introduced him to me, she said, he's not only apilot, he's a scratch golfer -- he's better than you are.(Laughter.) And after a brief conversation, we actually concluded itwas more likely that I would go into space than that I would ever beas good as he is. (Laughter.)

Forty years ago, Life magazine introduced America'sfirst astronauts to the world, noting that the seven Mercuryastronauts were picked from -- quote -- "the same general mold."They were all military pilots. They were all in their 30s. They allhad crew cuts. (Laughter.) They were all men. And they really wereall true American heroes. But heroes come in every size and shapeand gender. Today we celebrate the falling away of another barrierin America's quest to conquer the frontiers of space and also toadvance the cause of equality.

I'm proud to be here to congratulate Colonel EileenCollins on becoming the first woman to command a space shuttlemission. She may not fit the exact mold of 40 years ago, but sheclearly embodies the essential qualities of all our astronauts, thenand now -- the bold, restless, pioneering spirit that has made ournation great. And, as we've already heard, the story of her life isa story of challenges set and challenges met. That is also the storyof our space program.

When it comes to exploring space and the unknown, theword "impossible" is not in our vocabulary. We have alwaysrecognized the limitless possibilities of seemingly impossiblechallenges.

A generation ago, President Kennedy said within a decadewe would send an American to the Moon and bring him safely back toEarth. By 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had left theirfootprints on the Moon. We said, in our time, that we would visitthe planets of the solar system. And last Fourth of July allAmericans, with the help of a robot called Sojourner, got a chance torove the surface of Mars and meet red rocks named Scooby Doo andBarnacle Bill.

Thirty-six years after John Glenn made hishistory-making space flight in a capsule the size of a compact car,he's not only going back into space, but we are poised to build aninternational space station the size of a football field. Americahas indeed become, as President Kennedy hoped, the world's leadingspace-faring nation, a distinction we must keep in the 21st century.

Colonel Collins will lead us in this effort, commandinga mission to launch a telescope that will allow us to peer into thedeepest reaches of outer space. Our balanced budget for 1999 willsupport, in fact, 28 new space missions -- missions that will help usdecipher more of the mysteries of black holes, of ancient stars, andof our Earth itself. Indeed, later today NASA will be making someexciting new announcements on the results of the Lunar Prospectormission, currently orbiting the moon.

The knowledge we gain from our space missions could helpus treat diseases here on Earth, from osteoporosis to ovarian cancer.It can make our farms more productive. It could help us meet thechallenge of global climate change. And perhaps help us to uncoverthe very origins of life itself.

All Americans, especially our young people, haveimportant roles to play in making these plans a reality. They haveto begin by taking their studies, especially their studies in mathand science, seriously.

Last week, we learned that our leading space-faringnation is not faring very well when it comes to achievement of highschool seniors in math and science. This is unacceptable. As weprepare for an information age that will require every student tomaster not just the basics of reading and math, but algebra,geometry, physics, and computer science, I call on every parent,every school, every teacher to set higher expectations for ourchildren. And I call upon all of our students -- and I know thatHillary and Eileen will today -- to take these challenging courses,so that we can all be prepared for the known and still unknownchallenges of the future. And I call on all young girls acrossAmerica and their parents to take inspiration from Colonel Collins'achievement.

Let me remind you of something she was too modest tosay. She has a distinguished degree from Syracuse University. Shecame up through the ROTC program. She began her high schooleducation in community college. I want every child in this countryto know that we have opened the doors of college to all Americans,the community college is virtually free for all children now, thateverybody can make this start and nobody needs to put blinders ontheir aspirations for the future. She is proof. (Applause.)

I want to say, especially to the little girls who willhear Eileen Collins and those who will see her and to their parents,let's remember that at a time when very few girls were taking thehardest math and science courses, Colonel Collins was taking them andmastering them. She did in part because of the unfailing support ofher parents who set high expectations and told her she could doanything she set her mind to. She never gave up, and one by one herdreams came true.

I think our country owes a great debt of gratitude toher parents, and I hope that more will follow her direction --(applause.) And perhaps with her well-justified new fame, notoriety,the greatest mark Colonel Collins will make will not just be writtenin the stars, but here on Earth -- in the mind of every young girlwith a knack for numbers, a gift for science, and a fearless spirit.Let us work to make sure that for every girl and every boy, dreamsand ambitions can be realized and even the sky is no longer thelimit.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

What's New - March 1998

National Association of Attorneys

Medicare Commission Members

California Disaster Relief Efforts

Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Training

Prime Minister of Thailand

First Woman Space Shuttle Commander

Irresponsible Tax Reform

School Safety Event

Health Care Commission Report

Unemployment at Lowest Level

Ratify NATO Enlargement

Promote Science And Math

Health Care For American Families

Springbrook High School

Quality Child Care

UN Secretary General Annan

Social Security Discussion

Irish Prime Minister Ahern

Targeted Medicare Expansion

Action To Reduce Drunk Driving

Violence Against Women

St. Patrick's Day Reception

Legislation Ensuring Food Safety

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