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Hispanic Heritage Month highlight: Dr. Ellen Ochoa

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Dr. Ellen Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman to go to space.

Aloe Suarez, Features Reporter

When Apollo 11 first landed on the moon in 1969, the entire U.S. nation witnessed history, including an eleven-year-old girl who grew up to be the first Hispanic woman to fly into space: Dr. Ellen Ochoa.

Born and raised in California, Ochoa grew up with a curious mind for science and endless space possibilities. 

Her first bachelor’s degree in physics came from San Diego State University. Later, she pursued a master’s and a doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University.

Ochoa’s contributions to space science, including co-inventing three patents for optical inspection technology, piqued NASA’s interest in 1990. The next year NASA signed her on as an astronaut for the STS-56 mission aboard the Discovery.

That was only the beginning of her space journey— Ochoa completed three additional space missions and has spent about a thousand hours in the cosmos. 

She has published numerous technical papers and has won awards, such as NASA’s highest Distinguished Service Medal, for her outstanding research at Sandia National Laboratories and NASA Ames Research Center.

After serving as Deputy Center Director and Director of Flight Crew Operations, NASA promoted Ochoa to Director of the Johnson Space Center. 

Ochoa retired in 2018 and currently lives in Texas with her husband. However, she remains active as a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the National Academy of Inventors, and the Optical Society of America.

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Hispanic Heritage Month highlight: Dr. Ellen Ochoa