New film 'Spacewoman' to celebrate NASA's Eileen Collins, 1st woman space commander and pilot


The first female space commander will be featured in a new documentary.

The story of retired NASA astronaut Eileen Collins will be retold in “Spacewoman,” a documentary coming in 2025 based on Collins’ memoir “Through the Glass Ceiling to the Stars” (Arcade, 2021) co-written with space historian Jonathan Ward.

Collins, who flew four times in space, served as pilot on two space shuttle missions (STS-63 and STS-84 in February 1995 and May 1997, respectively) and commander of crew on another two spaceflights (STS-93 in July 1999, and STS-114 in July to August 2005).

The memoir, and the movie, recounts how Collins came from an “underprivileged childhood” in Elmira, New York to join the U.S. Air Force, acquiring experience in matters such as test piloting and commanding the C-141 aircraft before being selected as a NASA astronaut candidate in 1990. (Collins retired from NASA in 2006.)

Related: International Women’s Day: Female astronauts keep making strides off Earth

The 90-minute documentary will be directed by Hannah Berryman (“Banned! The Mary Whitehouse Story”), and produced by Keith Haviland, Haviland Digital, and Natasha Dack Ojumu on behalf of Tigerlily Productions.

The Emmy-nominated Haviland in particular has produced numerous space documentaries, such as “Chasing the Moon” (2019), “Armstrong” (2019), “Indian Space Dreams” (2019), “Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo” (2017) and “The Last Man on the Moon” (2014).

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The first female and Black astronauts were only recruited in 1978 for NASA, 17 years after the first NASA space mission by Alan Shepard in 1961. Sally Ride then made the first NASA woman spaceflight in 1983. Part of the diversity issue in recruitment came because the military used to be largely made up of white men, and NASA largely drew from the military branches, but that was changing in the decade or so since Collins joined NASA.

Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman in space during a solo mission in 1963. The milestone mission, however, did not give Tereshkova command over a crew or piloting control of her Vostok spacecraft.

Collins’ memoir pays tribute to women who tried to reach space in the generation before her, including the iconic Mercury 13 pilots who participated in space training but were not authorized for missions. Collins invited the seven surviving members of that group to her 2005 launch, she recounted in the book. (Of the Mercury 13, Wally Funk finally reached space in 2021 at age 82, on a private Blue Origin mission.)

“I am enormously excited to be involved with this film project,” Collins said in a statement. “It is more than my personal journey through life’s challenges. It also includes the thrill of flying jets, my determination to be an astronaut, commanding the space shuttle, and the many relationships I built along the way.”



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