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      President William Jefferson Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton with Eileen Collins in the Oval Office.Sharon Farmer and White House Photograph Office At that event, on March 5, 1998, the First Lady noted what a change it would be to have a female in the commander’s seat. Referencing Neil A. Armstrong’s first words on the Moon, Clinton proclaimed, “Collins will take one big step forward for women and one giant leap for humanity.” Collins, a military test pilot and shuttle astronaut, was about to break one of the last remaining barriers for women at NASA by being assigned a position previously filled by men only. Clinton went on to reflect on her own experience with the space agency when she explained how in 1962, at the age of 14, she had written to NASA and asked about the qualifications to become an astronaut. NASA responded that women were not being considered to fly space missions. “Well, times have certainly changed,” she said wryly.
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      Astronaut Eileen M. Collins looks over a checklist at the commander’s station on the forward flight deck of the space shuttle Columbia on July 23, 1999, the first day of the mission.  The most important event of this day was the deployment of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory.NASA By 1998, views about women’s roles had changed substantially, as demonstrated by the naming of the first female shuttle commander. The agency even commissioned a song for the occasion: “Beyond the Sky,” by singer-songwriter Judy Collins. NASA dedicated the historic mission’s launch to America’s female aviation pioneers from the Ninety-Nines—an international organization of women pilots—to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), women who ferried aircraft for the military during World War II. Collins also extended an invitation to the women who had participated in Randy Lovelace’s Woman in Space Program, where women went through the same medical and psychological tests as the Mercury 7 astronauts; the press commonly refers to these women as the Mercury 13. (Commander Collins had thanked both the WASPs and the Mercury 13 for paving the way and inspiring her career in aviation and spaceflight in her White House speech.)
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      In a group interview with several of the WASPs in Florida, just before launch, Mary Anna “Marty” Martin Wyall explained why they came. “Eileen Collins was one of those women that has always looked at us as being her mentors, and we just think she’s great. That’s why we want to come see her blast off.” Betty Skelton Frankman expressed just how proud she was of Collins, and how NASA’s first female commander would be fulfilling her dream to fly in space. “In a way,” she said, “it’s like my dream come true.” In the ‘60s it was not possible for a woman to fly in space because none met the requirements as laid out by NASA. But by the end of the twentieth century, women had been in the Astronaut Office for 20 years, and opportunities for women had grown as women were selected as pilot astronauts. NASA named its second and only other female space shuttle commander, Pamela A. Melroy, to STS-120, and Peggy A. Whitson went on to command the International Space Station. Melroy and Whitson shook hands in space, when their missions coincided, for another historic first—two women commanding space missions at the same time.
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      U.S. or international media seeking remote interviews must submit requests to the NASA Johnson newsroom by 5 p.m., Thursday, July 25. A copy of NASA’s media accreditation policy is online.
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      With 203 days logged in space, this will be Hague’s third launch and second mission to the orbiting laboratory. During his first launch in 2018, Hague and his crewmate, Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin, experienced a rocket booster failure, resulting in an in-flight launch abort and safe landing for their Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft. Five months later, Hague launched aboard Soyuz MS-12 and served as a flight engineer aboard the space station during Expeditions 59 and 60. Hague conducted three spacewalks to upgrade space station power systems and install a docking adapter for commercial spacecraft. As an active-duty colonel in the U.S. Space Force, Hague completed a developmental rotation at the Department of Defense in Washington, where he served as the USSF director of test and evaluation from 2020 to 2022. In August 2022, Hague resumed duties at NASA, working on the Boeing Starliner Program until this flight assignment. Follow @astrohague on X and @astrohauge on Instagram.
      A veteran of three spaceflights aboard space shuttle Discovery, Wilson has spent 42 days in space. During her first mission, STS-121, in July 2006, she and her crewmates spent 13 days in orbit. Wilson served as the robotic arm operator for spacecraft inspection, the installation of the “Leonardo” Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, and spacewalk support. In October 2007, Wilson and her STS-120 crewmates delivered the Harmony module to the station and relocated a solar array. In April 2010, Wilson and her STS-131 crewmates completed another resupply mission to the orbiting complex, delivering a new ammonia tank for the station cooling system, new crew sleeping quarters, a window observation facility, and a freezer for experiments. During nearly 30 years with NASA, Wilson served as the integration branch chief for NASA’s Astronaut Office, focusing on International Space Station systems and payload operations. She also completed a nine-month detail as the acting chief of NASA’s Program and Project Integration Office at the agency’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Follow @astro_stephanie on X.
      This will be Gorbunov’s first trip to space and the station. Born in Zheleznogorsk, Kursk region, Russia, he studied engineering with qualifications in spacecraft and upper stages from the Moscow Aviation Institute. Gorbunov graduated from the military department with a specialty in operating and repairing aircraft, helicopters, and aircraft engines. Before being selected as a cosmonaut in 2018, he worked as an engineer for Rocket Space Corporation Energia and supported cargo spacecraft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
      Learn more about how NASA innovates for the benefit of humanity through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program at:
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      joshua.a.finch@nasa.gov / james.j.russell@nasa.gov
      Leah Cheshier / Sandra Jones
      Johnson Space Center, Houston
      leah.d.cheshier@nasa.gov / sandra.p.jones@nasa.gov
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