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Ellen O. Ochoa (born May 10, 1958) is an Hispanic-American engineer, former astronaut and former Director of the Johnson Space Center.[1] Ochoa became director of the center upon the retirement of the previous director, Michael Coats, on December 31, 2012.[2] 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.[3][4]

Ellen O. Ochoa
Ellen Ochoa.jpg
Born (1958-05-10) May 10, 1958 (age 61)
StatusRetired / Working
Alma materSan Diego State University, Stanford University
OccupationDirector of 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.png Sts-110-patch.png

Early lifeEdit

Ochoa was born in Los Angeles, California, but she grew up in La Mesa, California.[1] Ochoa graduated from Grossmont High School in El Cajon in 1975. Her parents divorced when she was in high school and she lived with her mother and her brothers.


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.[5]



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.[6][7][8] 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.


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 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[3][4] 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. 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][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]

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.[11]

National ServiceEdit

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 for Technology and Innovation.[12]

Personal lifeEdit

Ochoa's husband is Coe Miles, an intellectual attorney. They have two sons.[13] Ochoa is a classical flutist and played with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra, once receiving the Student Soloist Award.[14]


Ochoa was recognized during Hispanic Heritage Month activities in Cleveland, Ohio on September 14, 2011. [15] 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.[16] Union Public Schools in Tulsa, named a new elementary school after her as well. 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 were announced as the 2017 class of the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame.[17] Ochoa was recognized in Hispanic Executive's 2017 Best of the Boardroom[18] issue for her work as a board director for Johnson Space Center.

Ochoa is a Fellow of AAAS, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the National Academy of Inventors.[12]

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

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Astronaut Bio: Ellen Ochoa". NASA. October 3, 2006. Retrieved January 25, 2007.
  2. ^ "Ochoa Named Johnson Space Center Director: Coats to Retire". NASA. November 16, 2012. Retrieved November 27, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Guide to Hispanic Heritage".
  4. ^ a b Curtis, Anthony R. "Space Today Online -- Man In Space Firsts -- table of contents".
  5. ^ "CSU Alumni - Aerospace & Aviation - Ellen Ochoa". Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  6. ^ "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)
  7. ^ "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)
  8. ^ "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)
  9. ^ "Spacefacts biography of Ellen Ochoa".
  10. ^ "STS-107 Entry Timeline". Retrieved February 2, 2012.
  11. ^ "Ochoa Named Johnson Space Center Director". Retrieved January 10, 2013.
  12. ^ a b "National Science Board". National Science Board. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "Ellen Ochoa". American Physical Society. Retrieved January 31, 2016.
  15. ^[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ "Ellen Ochoa Prep Academy". Retrieved October 10, 2017.
  17. ^ "U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony & Gala". Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  18. ^ "Hispanic Executive's 2017 Best of the Boardroom". Hispanic Executive. Guerrero Media.

External linksEdit