Ellen Ochoa (born May 10, 1958) is an American engineer, former astronaut, and 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] 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 in 1993.

Personal lifeEdit

Ochoa was born in Los Angeles, California, but considers La Mesa, California her hometown. She always had a love for science, which was also her favorite subject in school. She graduated from Grossmont High School in El Cajon in 1975. Ochoa received a bachelor of science degree in physics from San Diego State University in 1980 and a master of science degree and doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1981 and 1985, respectively. Her parents got divorced when she was in high school and so she lived with her mother, three brothers and one sister. She is married to Coe Fulmer Miles, with whom she has two children.

Ellen Ochoa is a classical flutist and played with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra, receiving the Student Soloist Award [5]

Research careerEdit

As a pioneer of spacecraft technology, she patented an optical system to detect defects in a repeating pattern. At the NASA Ames Research Center, she led a research group working primarily on optical systems for automated space exploration.

As a doctoral student at Stanford, and later as a researcher at Sandia National Laboratories and NASA Ames Research Center, Ochoa investigated optical systems for performing information processing.

Ochoa 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 careerEdit

Ellen Ochoa with Robonaut2

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

Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman in the world to go to space[6][7] when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the shuttle Discovery in 1993. The astronauts were studying the Earth's ozone layer. In her honor, Pasco School District # 1 in Pasco, Washington, Ellen Ochoa Elementary School in Cudahy, CA named their newest schools after her, and in 2014 Green Dot Public Schools will open Ánimo Ellen Ochoa Charter Middle School in East Los Angeles, CA. Grand Prairie, Texas has a school named Ellen Ochoa STEM Academy at Ben Milam Elementary School.

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.

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 (2002).[8][9] 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.[10]

Since 2007, she 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 made history again by becoming the first Hispanic and second female director of NASA's Johnson Space Center.[11]


Ochoa was recognized during Hispanic Heritage Month activities in Cleveland, Ohio on September 14, 2011.[12]

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit

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