Wally wrote an article for the September/October 1999 issue of 99 News about Eileen Collins' first mission as commander of a space shuttle. Here are a few excerpts:

I was invited to Cocoa Beach, Florida, to witness another historic launch. To me and some of the other invited guests who were meeting me there, this seemed even more important than man's first steps on the moon because this shuttle flight was the first to be commanded by a woman, Eileen Collins....

Lt. Col. Eileen Collins had already made history by becoming the first female shuttle pilot rendezvousing with the MIR space station in 1995 and docking with it on a 1997 mission. But a shuttle pilot is really a copilot, flying second-in-command. This time, Eileen was to be in charge of a challenging night launch and night landing....

[The shuttle Columbia was launched on July 23, 1999, after two attempts were scrubbed. Wally had been unable to stay in Florida for the final attempt.]

It was reported to me that the countdown was smooth and night became day as the solid rocket boosters ignited, lighting up the sky and the excited faces of those who had worked so hard to make this happen....

I did, however, get to see Eileen fly the shuttle---just from a much further distance! As Columbia re-entered the atmosphere and headed for a landing, we picked up her golden-white streak as it crossed the sky right over Dallas-Fort Worth airport near my home. It was as though I could reach out and touch her. Most streets and backyards were full of folks watching this great event. We were yelling, "Go, girl, go!"

I talked to Eileen about the flight after she got back home. She said that when I saw her she was at approximately 80,000 feet (AGL) speeding along at Mach 10! That's about 8,000 to 9,000 mph! Just 16 minutes later, she landed back at the Cape.

Wally Funk's Online World!
Outtakes from Wally's Memoir
Wally's life has been too full to include everything in one book. Each month, this page will feature something that didn't make it into Higher, Faster, Longer.
Wally's life has been too full to include everything in one book. Each month, this page will feature something that didn't make it into Higher, Faster, Longer.
Wally wrote an article for the September/October 1999 issue of 99 News about Eileen Collins' first mission as commander of a space shuttle. Here are a few excerpts:

I was invited to Cocoa Beach, Florida, to witness another historic launch. To me and some of the other invited guests who were meeting me there, this seemed even more important than man's first steps on the moon because this shuttle flight was the first to be commanded by a woman, Eileen Collins....

Lt. Col. Eileen Collins had already made history by becoming the first female shuttle pilot rendezvousing with the MIR space station in 1995 and docking with it on a 1997 mission. But a shuttle pilot is really a copilot, flying second-in-command. This time, Eileen was to be in charge of a challenging night launch and night landing....

[The shuttle Columbia was launched on July 23, 1999, after two attempts were scrubbed. Wally had been unable to stay in Florida for the final attempt.]

It was reported to me that the countdown was smooth and night became day as the solid rocket boosters ignited, lighting up the sky and the excited faces of those who had worked so hard to make this happen....

I did, however, get to see Eileen fly the shuttle---just from a much further distance! As Columbia re-entered the atmosphere and headed for a landing, we picked up her golden-white streak as it crossed the sky right over Dallas-Fort Worth airport near my home. It was as though I could reach out and touch her. Most streets and backyards were full of folks watching this great event. We were yelling, "Go, girl, go!"

I talked to Eileen about the flight after she got back home. She said that when I saw her she was at approximately 80,000 feet (AGL) speeding along at Mach 10! That's about 8,000 to 9,000 mph! Just 16 minutes later, she landed back at the Cape.


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