Ellen Ochoa

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Ellen Ochoa
Ellen Ochoa.jpg
Born (1958-05-10) May 10, 1958 (age 62)
Alma mater
OccupationDirector Johnson Space Center
Space career
NASA astronaut
Time in space
40d 19h 36m
Selection1990 NASA Group
MissionsSTS-56, STS-66, STS-96, STS-110
Mission insignia
Sts-56-patch.png Sts-66-patch.png Sts-96-patch.svg Sts-110-patch.png

Ellen Ochoa (born May 10, 1958) is an American engineer, former astronaut and former director of the Johnson Space Center.[1] In 1993 Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.[2] Ochoa became director of the center upon the retirement of the previous director, Michael Coats, on December 31, 2012.[3] She was the first Hispanic director and the second female director of Johnson Space Center.

Early life and education[edit]

Ellen Lauri Ochoa was born on May 10, 1958 in Los Angeles, California[4] to Joseph and Rosanne (née Deardorff) Ochoa. Her paternal grandparents immigrated from Sonora to Arizona and later to California where her father was born.[5] She grew up in La Mesa, California.[1]

Ochoa graduated from Grossmont High School in El Cajon in 1975.[6] Her parents divorced when she was in high school and she lived with her mother and her brothers.[7]

Ochoa received a bachelor of science degree in physics from San Diego State University and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1980, before earning a master of science degree and a doctorate from Stanford Department of Electrical Engineering in 1981 and 1985, respectively.[8]



As a doctoral student at Stanford, and later as a researcher at Sandia National Laboratories and the NASA Ames Research Center, Ochoa investigated optical systems for performing information processing.[1] At the NASA Ames Research Center, she led a research group working primarily on optical systems for automated space exploration.[1] She patented an optical system to detect defects in a repeating pattern and is a co-inventor on three patents for an optical inspection system, an optical object recognition method and a method for noise removal in images.[9][10][11] As Chief of the Intelligent Systems Technology Branch at Ames, she supervised 35 engineers and scientists in the research and development of computational systems for aerospace missions. Ochoa has presented numerous papers at technical conferences and in scientific journals.[12]


Ochoa next to Robonaut 2 during a JSC media day on August 4, 2010.

Ochoa was selected by NASA in January 1991 and became an astronaut in July 1991.[1] Her technical assignments in the Astronaut Office included serving as the crew representative for flight software, computer hardware and robotics, Assistant for Space Station to the Chief of the Astronaut Office, lead spacecraft communicator (CAPCOM) in Mission Control and as acting as Deputy Chief of the Astronaut Office.[1]

Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to go to space[13][14] when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1993. The purpose of the Shuttle mission was to study the Earth's ozone layer. A veteran of four space flights, Ochoa has logged nearly 1000 hours in space.[15] She was a mission specialist on STS-56 (1993), was payload commander on STS-66, and was mission specialist and flight engineer on STS-96 and STS-110 in 2002.[1][16] Ochoa was in Mission Control during the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster and was one of the first personnel informed of television coverage showing Columbia's disintegration.[17]

From 2007, after retiring from spacecraft operations, Ochoa served as Deputy Director of the Johnson Space Center, helping to manage and direct the Astronaut Office and Aircraft Operations. On January 1, 2013, Ochoa became the first Hispanic and second female director of NASA's Johnson Space Center.[18]

National Service[edit]

Ochoa was named Vice Chair of the National Science Board for the 2018–2020 term. She currently chairs the committee evaluating nominations for the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.[19]

Personal life[edit]

Ochoa's husband is Coe Miles, an intellectual property attorney.[20] They have two sons.[20] Ochoa is a classical flautist and played with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra, once receiving the Student Soloist Award.[21] While an undergraduate at San Diego State University, she played the flute for two years as part of the university marching band and for five years as a member of the university wind ensemble. She brought a flute with her on her first mission to space.[22]


Ochoa in 2014

The Ochoa Middle School located in Pasco, Washington, the Ellen Ochoa Elementary School in Cudahy, CA and the Ánimo Ellen Ochoa Charter Middle School in East Los Angeles are named in her honor. In addition, Grand Prairie, Texas has the Ellen Ochoa STEM Academy at Ben Milam Elementary School and Pico Rivera, California has the Ellen Ochoa Prep Academy.[23] Union Public Schools in Tulsa, named a new elementary school after her as well.[24]

A flag with the rocket logo of the Ochoa Middle School in Pasco, Washington flew with Ochoa in April 2002 aboard the Shuttle Atlantis for an 11-day mission to the International Space Station. Ochoa returned the flag to the school when she visited as a special guest at the 2002 dedication and it remains on permanent display.[25]

Ochoa has received many awards among which are NASA's Distinguished Service Medal (2015),[26] Exceptional Service Medal (1997), Outstanding Leadership Medal (1995) and Space Flight Medals (2002, 1999, 1994, 1993).[1] Ochoa and Michael Foale were announced as the 2017 class of the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame.[27] Ochoa was recognized in Hispanic Executive's 2017 Best of the Boardroom[28] issue for her work as a board director for Johnson Space Center. She was inducted into the 2018 International Air and Space Hall of Fame class.[29]

Ochoa is a Fellow of AAAS, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the National Academy of Inventors.[19]

An animated version of Ochoa was featured in the episode "Astronaut Ellen Ochoa" of the children's television program, Ready Jet Go!.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Astronaut Bio: Ellen Ochoa". NASA. October 3, 2006. Retrieved January 25, 2007.
  2. ^ "Space Today Online -- Man In Space Firsts -- table of contents". www.spacetoday.org. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
  3. ^ "Ochoa Named Johnson Space Center Director: Coats to Retire". NASA. November 16, 2012. Retrieved November 27, 2017.
  4. ^ "Ellen Ochoa". NNDB. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  5. ^ Hasday, Judy L. Ellen Ochoa. New York, NY. ISBN 978-1-4381-4611-9. OCLC 913784636.
  6. ^ "Ellen Ochoa". Grossmont High School. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  7. ^ Iverson, Teresa (2006). Ellen Ochoa. Heinemann-Raintree Library.
  8. ^ "CSU Alumni - Aerospace & Aviation - Ellen Ochoa". calstate.edu. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  9. ^ "System for enhancement of optical features". Joseph W. Goodman, Lambertus Hesselink, Ellen Ochoa, Leland Stanford Junior University, Leland Stanford Junior University. June 14, 1985. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: others (link)
  10. ^ "Position, rotation, and intensity invariant recognizing method". Ellen Ochoa, George F. Schils, Donald W. Sweeney, US Department of Energy, US Department of Energy. September 15, 1987. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: others (link)
  11. ^ "Optical ranked-order filtering using threshold decomposition". Jan P. Allebach, Ellen Ochoa, Donald W. Sweeney, US Department of Energy, US Department of Energy. October 9, 1987. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: others (link)
  12. ^ Ellis, Lee (2004). Who's who of NASA astronauts (1st ed.). Americana Group Pub. p. 140. ISBN 978-0966796148. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  13. ^ "Guide to Hispanic Heritage". britannica.com.
  14. ^ Curtis, Anthony R. "Space Today Online -- Man In Space Firsts -- table of contents". www.spacetoday.org.
  15. ^ Delmore, Erin (December 12, 2019). "Ellen Ochoa, the first Latina to go to space: How to get more women into STEM". NBC News. Retrieved February 13, 2020.
  16. ^ "Spacefacts biography of Ellen Ochoa".
  17. ^ "STS-107 Entry Timeline". spaceflightnow.com. Retrieved February 2, 2012.
  18. ^ "Ochoa Named Johnson Space Center Director". nasa.gov. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
  19. ^ a b "National Science Board". National Science Board. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  20. ^ a b Canales, Christina (February 14, 2017). "NASA Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa to Be Inducted Into U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. Release J17-001". Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  21. ^ "Ellen Ochoa". American Physical Society. Retrieved January 31, 2016.
  22. ^ "Honorary Doctorate Awarded to Ellen Ochoa". San Diego State University. October 3, 2019. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  23. ^ "Ellen Ochoa Prep Academy". ochoaprep.erusd.org. Retrieved October 10, 2017.
  24. ^ Pickard, Arianna (July 27, 2017). "Union debuts 'community school' model with Ellen Ochoa Elementary". Tulsa World. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  25. ^ "Ochoa Middle School". Ochoa Middle School. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  26. ^ "Astronaut Ellen Ochoa becomes the first Hispanic woman in space". HISTORY. Retrieved February 13, 2020.
  27. ^ "U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony & Gala". Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  28. ^ "Hispanic Executive's 2017 Best of the Boardroom". Hispanic Executive. Guerrero Media.
  29. ^ "World's Most Prestigious Air & Space Hall of Fame to Enshrine Distinguished Class of 2018". San Diego Air & Space Museum. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  30. ^ "Ready Jet Go!". Alabama Public Television. Retrieved May 30, 2020.

External links[edit]