Congressman Pete Olson

Representing the 22nd District of Texas

Celebrating Women's History Month

March 14, 2016
Op-Ed


OLSON: Collins, Ochoa deserve to be celebrated

By Pete Olson
Member of Congress

While we celebrate women all year long, March is designated as Women’s History Month. It gives us a great opportunity to highlight some of the many women who have been pioneers in their fields inspiring other women to follow in their footsteps.

Growing up and living in the shadow of NASA’s Johnson Space Center has always served as a source of American exceptionalism and pride in our great nation. The men and women who work there have altered the course of history and taken us to the heavens. As we celebrate exceptional women, we must honor NASA astronauts Colonel Eileen Collins and Ellen Ochoa. These women have forged new paths and inspired millions to shoot for the stars. While many of their accomplishments occurred in space, the impact of their missions and extraordinary lives are felt right here on earth

As a former Navy pilot, my admiration for Colonel Collins began with her Air Force service. After earning her pilot wings, Collins was the second female to attend the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School. During her illustrious career, which lasted over 20 years, she logged over 6,751 hours in 30 different types of aircrafts. That is quite an impressive feat. Yet, her journey had a ways to go when she was selected to be a part of the NASA astronaut program.

In 1995, Col. Collins became the first female shuttle pilot, during an 8-day mission aboard the Discovery Space Shuttle. Two missions later in 1999, Collins conquered another first for women; she became the first woman to command a shuttle mission. This feat happened aboard the Columbia Space Shuttle, where Collins commanded a crew of five on a four day mission to deploy the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Colonel Collins logged over 872 hours in space on four space flights.

Another great example of women breaking barriers in space can be seen in Dr. Ellen Ochoa. After earning a PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford, Dr. Ochoa went on be a co-inventor on three patents during her time as a NASA researcher. Dr. Ochoa entered the NASA astronaut program in January of 1990. During her career with NASA, she logged 978 hours in space on four different space flights. Ochoa became the first Hispanic women in space in 1993, when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the Discovery Space Shuttle. Her dedication to the exploration of space was far from over when she landed back on earth. In 2012, she was named the 11th Director of the Johnson Space Station. Dr. Ochoa became the space center’s first Hispanic director and second female to lead the Johnson Space Station.

This month we celebrate the accomplishments of Colonel Eileen Collins and Dr. Ellen Ochoa, as well as all of the outstanding women who break barriers and inspire our youth every day. They are trailblazers who broke barriers in space that impacted generations of our youth back on earth. I look forward to seeing the future generations grow stronger and more empowered. As a father to a beautiful and talented daughter, I’m grateful that she has role models like Eileen Collins and Ellen Ochoa to look up to and know that she can dream big and achieve anything.

Pete Olson (Sugar Land) is the representative for District 22.

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