Women's History Month Feature: Dr. Ellen Ochoa - First Hispanic Woman In Space

The month of March signifies the beginning of Women’s history Month. In honor of this occasion, we will be featuring an outstanding woman from history, highlighting the amazing accomplishments of women in our nation’s storied past

Our next installment features Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman to go to space and the first Hispanic Director of the Johnson Space Center.

Ellen Ochoa was born in 1958 in California. Her grandparents immigrated from Mexico to California. Ellen went to San Diego State University and received her bachelor’s degree in physics. She went on to receive her masters and doctorate in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 1981 and 1985.

After her schooling, Dr. Ochoa worked for NASA and the Sandia National Laboratory on optical systems, and her work would be used for automated space exploration. She even patented an optical system to detect defects in a repeating pattern. As Dr. Ochoa put it, she wanted to help computers “see.”

In 1985, Dr. Ochoa applied to NASA to be an astronaut. She was ultimately rejected but stuck with it, obtaining her pilots license to make her a better candidate. Her perseverance paid off and she was selected for the program in 1991.  Her experience allowed her to serve the role as crew representative for flight software, computer hardware and robotics.

In 1993, Dr. Ochoa made history as the first Hispanic woman to go to space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. The purpose of the mission was to study Earth’s ozone layer.

After retiring from spacecraft operations, Dr. Ochoa served as Deputy Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and in 2013, she became the second woman and first Hispanic Director of the Johnson Space Center. Her story of perseverance and dedication to scientific discovery make Dr. Ellen Ochoa a trailblazer for women and Hispanics in space exploration.

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