A lot of people don’t know who Ellen Ochoa is. In fact, “Why is Ellen Ochoa famous?” is one of the most asked questions in Google. This can be surprising since Ellen has made huge contributions not just to the world of astronomy but also to science in general. To learn more about her, browse through these interesting facts.
1. She Is Half-Mexican.
Ellen’s Mexican bloodline came to her through her father Joseph, whose parents were immigrants from Mexico. Joseph and Ellen’s mother Roseanne divorced when Ellen was in her teens. Roseanne struggled to raise Ellen and her siblings as a single parent, but she still found the time to take college courses, emphasizing the importance of education and inspiring her children to do well in their studies. Their mother’s hard work paid off: Ellen, her sister, and her three brothers became achievers in school and earned many awards throughout their student lives.
2. She Became Valedictorian Two Times.
Ellen was the class valedictorian when she graduated in 1975 from Grossmont High School in San Diego, California. She was offered a scholarship to Stanford University, but she declined it and opted to go to college in San Diego State University to be near her family. There, she majored in physics and graduated as a valedictorian in 1980.
3. She’s Had 3 Patents Under Her Name.
After earning her bachelor’s degree, Ellen went on to get a master’s degree as well as a doctorate in electrical engineering in Stanford University. She then worked for Sandia National Laboratories as a research engineer in their Imaging Technology Branch. There, Ellen became a co-inventor of an optical object recognition technique, an optical inspection system, and an image noise removal method and shared the patents for these innovations.
4. She Was The First Hispanic Woman In Space.
Ellen was hired by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1988. She worked at the NASA-owned Ames Research Center as the chief of intelligent systems technology. A year later, she earned a spot in the astronaut training program and went through several months of rigorous physical and mental training. She became a flight software specialist in 1991 and, in 1993, was invited to do her first space mission. She was one of the five crew members of the Discovery space shuttle and the only woman on board.
5. She Has Had Four Space Flights.
Aside from her mission on the Discovery, Ellen was assigned as a payload commander on the Atlantis space shuttle in 1994. She was also a flight engineer and mission specialist on a mission on the Discovery in 1999 as well as another mission on the Atlantis in 2002.
Ochoa has earned many awards because of her accomplishments, including the NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal and the Outstanding Leadership Medal. She has retired from being an astronaut and now works as the director of the Director of the Johnson Space Center. She loves speaking to students and strives to encourage young people (especially young women) to make the right preparations for the careers they want.