Ellen Ochoa

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Ellen Ochoa
Ellen Ochoa.jpg
NASA astronaut
Nationality American
Status Retired
Born (1958-05-10) May 10, 1958 (age 59)
Los Angeles, California
Time in space
40d 19h 36m
Selection 1990 NASA Group
Missions STS-56, STS-66, STS-96, STS-110
Mission insignia
Sts-56-patch.png Sts-66-patch.png Sts-96-patch.png Sts-110-patch.png

Ellen Ochoa (born May 10, 1958) is an American engineer, former astronaut, and the current Director of the Johnson Space Center.[1] Ochoa became director of the center upon retirement of the previous director, Michael Coats, on December 31, 2012.[2] In 1993 Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman in the world to go to space[3][4] when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the shuttle Discovery.

Personal life[edit]

Ochoa was born in Los Angeles, California, but considers La Mesa, California her hometown. Ochoa graduated from Grossmont High School in El Cajon in 1975. Her parents got divorced when she was in high school and so she lived with her mother and her three brothers. She 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 in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1981 and 1985, respectively. She is married to Coe Fulmer Miles, with whom she has two children. Ochoa is a classical flutist and played with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra, receiving the Student Soloist Award.[5]

Research career[edit]

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. At the NASA Ames Research Center, she led a research group working primarily on optical systems for automated space exploration. 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. As Chief of the Intelligent Systems Technology Branch at Ames, she supervised the 35 engineers scientists in the research and development of computational systems for aerospace missions. Ochoa has presented numerous papers at technical conferences and in scientific journals.

NASA career[edit]

Ellen Ochoa poses for a photo with Robonaut 2 during media day at JSC on August 4, 2010.

Ochoa was selected by NASA in January 1990 and became an astronaut in July 1991. Her technical assignments in the Astronaut Office includes 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.

Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman in the world to go to space[6][4] when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the shuttle Discovery in 1993. The astronauts were studying the Earth's ozone layer. A veteran of four space flights, Ochoa has logged nearly 1,000 hours in space. 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.[7][8] 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.[9]

Since 2007, she has served as Deputy Director of the Johnson Space Center, helping to manage and direct the Astronaut Office and Aircraft Operations, and is retired from spacecraft operations. On January 1, 2013, Ochoa became the first Hispanic and second female director of NASA's Johnson Space Center.[10]


Ochoa was recognized during Hispanic Heritage Month activities in Cleveland, Ohio on September 14, 2011. [11] 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 in 2014 are named in her honor. In addition, Grand Prairie, Texas has the Ellen Ochoa STEM Academy at Ben Milam Elementary School. Also, Pico Rivera, California has the Ellen Ochoa Prep Academy named after astronaut Ellen Ochoa. 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.

Ochoa has received many awards among which are NASA's Exceptional Service Medal (1997), Outstanding Leadership Medal (1995) and Space Flight Medals (2002, 1999, 1994, 1993).[1]

Ochoa and Michael Foale are announced as the 2017 class of the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame.[12]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]