Ellen Ochoa
Ellen Ochoa

Ellen Ochoa (b. May 10, 1958)
Ellen Ochoa, one of NASA’s most celebrated astronauts, did not always know that space was her destiny. “In college, I changed my major five times. I started [out] interested in music and business, and graduated with a degree in physics,” the San Diego State University alumnus has said. “I didn’t actually pursue becoming an astronaut until graduate school when I learned about the kinds of skills NASA was looking for in potential astronauts.”

Ochoa earned her master’s degree from Stanford University. While pursuing her doctorate in electrical engineering there, she co-invented the first of three patented devices for optical inspection, recognition and clarity.

NASA tapped Ochoa for its training program in 1990 and she officially became an astronaut one year later. In 1993, she took her first trip to outer space to explore the effects of the sun’s activity on Earth’s climate and environment. During the nine-day journey, mission specialist Ochoa used a Remote Manipulator System (RMS) robotic arm to launch a Spartan satellite that provided a glimpse into the extended outer atmosphere of the sun. She also took a moment to raise the women’s suffrage flag.

Ochoa went on three more missions from 1994 through 2002, logging more than 950 hours in space. Among her awards, Ochoa has received NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal and its Outstanding Leadership Medal.

She currently serves as director of flight crew operations at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. In her down time, this celebrated researcher, engineer, wife and mother of two plays classical flute and flies planes.