She has logged over 4,700 hours in 30 different types of aircraft.
Selected by NASA in January 1990, Collins became an astronaut in July 1991. Initially assigned to Orbiter engineering support, she also served on the astronaut support team responsible for Orbiter prelaunch checkout, final launch configuration, crew ingress/egress, and landing/recovery. From April 1995 to October 1996, she worked in Mission Control as a spacecraft communicator (CAPCOM). A veteran of two space flights, STS-63 (February 2-11, 1995) and STS-84 (May 15-24, 1997), she has logged over 419 hours in space.
In February 1995, Collins served as pilot on STS-63, the first flight of the new joint Russian-American Space Program. Mission highlights included the rendezvous with the Russian Space Station, Mir, operation of Spacehab, the deployment and retrieval of an astronomy satellite, and a space walk. Collins' first mission was accomplished in 129 orbits, traveling over 2.9 million miles in 198 hours, 29 minutes. She was the first woman pilot of a Space Shuttle.
In May 1997, Collins served as pilot on STS-84, NASA's sixth Shuttle mission to rendezvous and dock with the Russian Space Station Mir. In completing this 9-day mission, she traveled 3.6 million miles in 144 orbits of the Earth logging a total of 221 hours and 20 minutes in space.
Deployed ODERACS 2A-2E; deployed and retrieved Spartan 204. Discovery rendezvoused with Russia's space station, Mir, to a distance of 11 m and performed a fly-around, but did not dock with Mir. Payloads: SPACEHAB 03, Shuttle Pointed Autonomous Research Tool for Astronomy (SPARTAN) 204, Cryo Systems Experiment (CSE)/GLO-2 Experi-ment Payload (CGP)/Orbital Debris Radar Calibration Spheres (ODERACS) 2, Solid Surface Combustion Experiment (SSCE), Air Force Maui Optical Site (AMOS), IMAX Cargo Bay Camera (ICBC)
Atlantis blasted off on a night launch to Mir, docking with the station on May 17 at 02:33 GMT. Jerry Linenger, who had begun his stay on Mir in mid-January aboard STS-81, would return aboard STS-84. Michael Foale would be left at the station for his stint as the American crew member of Mir. The crew transfered to Mir 466 kg of water, 383 kg of U.S. science equipment, 1,251 kg of Russian equipment and supplies, and 178 kg of miscellaneous material. Returned to Earth aboard Atlantis were 406 kg of U.S. science material, 531 kg of Russian logistics material, 14 kg of ESA material and 171 kg of miscellaneous material. Atlantis undocked from Mir at 01:04 GMT on May 22. After passing up its first landing opportunity due to clouds over the landing site, the Shuttle fired its OMS engines on the deorbit burn at 12:33 GMT on May 24. Atlantis landed at 13:27 GMT at Kennedy Space Center's runway 33.
STS-93 was first rolled out to pad 39B on June 7 1999. The Chandra/IUS-27 vehicle was placed in the payload canister on June 19. The first launch attempt was on July 20, but controllers aborted the launch at T-6 seconds, just before main engine ignition, due to a data spike in hydrogen pressure data. This was determined to be due to a faulty sensor and a second attempt was on July 22. A lightning storm prevented launch during the 46 minute window, and the launch was again scrubbed. Finally the vehicle lifted off the pad on July 23, but five seconds after launch a short in an electrical bus brought down two of the three main engine controllers. Backup controllers took over, but a further failure on the backup controller bus would have resulted in engine shutdown and the first ever attempt at an RTLS (Return To Launch Site) abort. To further complicate matters engine 3 (SSME 2019) had a hydrogen leak throughout the ascent, causing the engine to run hot. Controllers sweated as temperatures neared redline. The hot engine’s controller compensated as programmed by using additional liquid oxygen propellant. The final result was that the shuttle ran out of gas - main engine cut-off (MECO) was at 04:39 GMT, putting Columbia into a 78 km x 276 km x 28.5 degree transfer orbit. Columbia was 1,700 kg short of oxygen propellant and 5 meters/sec slower than planned. The OMS-2 engine burn at 05:12 GMT circularised the orbit 10 km lower than planned.
The orbiter payload bay contained only the Chandra spacecraft, the IUS, and the IUS tilt tableTthe following payloads were carried in the shuttle’s cabin: STL-B (Space Tissue Loss), CCM (Cell culture module), SAREX-II (Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment), EarthKam, PGIM (Plant Growth Investigations in Microgravity), CGBA (Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus), MEMS (Micro-electric Mechanical System), and BRIC (Biological Research in Canisters) and SWUIS (the Southwest Ultraviolet Imaging System, an 0.18-m UV telescope to be used for airglow and planetary observations); GOSAMR (the Gelation of Sols: Applied Microgravity Research experiment) and LFSAH, the Lightweight Flexible Solar Array Hinge. MSX and SIMPLEX experiments were also to be carried out.
Chandra/IUS-27 was deployed from Columbia at 11:47 GMT July 23. Flight duration was limited; this was the heaviest shuttle (122,534 kg) and heaviest payload (19,736 kg) to that date. Columbia landed at 03:20 GMT on July 28 on runway 33 at Kennedy Space Center. Post-flight inspection found the presence of holes in the cooling lines on the nozzle of SSME 2019 (engine 3) which caused a hydrogen leak. A loose repair pin in the engine broke free and caused the failure. The cause of the short was found to be chaffed wiring inside the shuttle. The entire fleet was grounded for inspection and replacement of wiring as necessary.