Ellen Ochoa

Ellen Ochoa (1958- ) was the world’s first Hispanic female astronaut. Born in Los Angeles, California, Ellen Ochoa graduated from San Diego State University in 1980 with a BS in physics and went on to receive a MS and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University. She joined NASA in 1988 as a research engineer at the Ames Research Center where she investigated optical systems for performing information processing, before moving to the Johnson Space Center in 1990 to become the first female Hispanic astronaut. She had applied three times for the position, which was highly competitive, and even more so for women. She served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993 (where she played the flute, in space, for science!). She has flown in space four times, logging nearly 1,000 hours in orbit. She holds three patents on optical systems that can be applied in multiple uses, including space (her work helped computers to “see”). She worked as the Deputy Center Director and Director of Flight Crew Operations. She is currently the 11th director of the Johnson Space Center: the second woman, and the first Latina to hold this position.. She has been recognized with NASA’s highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award, among many others. *kelsey edited this one. This current version is the old one.