Ellen Ochoa

Who Is Ellen Ochoa?

Ellen Ochoa is a former director of the Johnson Space Centre and a very skilled American engineer and astronaut. NASA chose her to be an astronaut in 1990, and in 1993 she completed her first space mission. Ochoa has completed four space missions and logged over 950 hours in orbit. Being the first Hispanic woman in space, she broke down barriers and made a tremendous contribution to space exploration.

Early Life And Education

Ellen Ochoa was born on May 10, 1958, in Los Angeles, California. She was raised in a Hispanic home where her parents pushed her to go to school and do well in school. Ochoa’s passion in science and math was evident from a young age.

She studied at San Diego State University, where in 1980 she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Physics. She pursued further studies at Stanford University, where she graduated in 1981 with a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering and in 1985 with a Doctorate in the same field.

Career At NASA

Ochoa joined NASA in 1988. She began her career at Ames Research Centre as a research engineer, specializing in optical systems for automated space exploration. She was chosen by NASA to be an astronaut candidate in 1990. Ochoa undertook intensive training and became a mission specialist, qualified to operate the Space Shuttle’s robotic arm.

Astronaut Ellen Lauri Ochoa made history on April 8, 1993, when she became the first Hispanic woman to fly to space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on mission STS-56. She carried out numerous experiments in air research, Earth observation, and materials processing throughout this voyage. She went on to finish three additional space missions:

  • STS-66 in 1994
  • STS-96 in 1999
  • STS-110 in 2002

She made contributions to a variety of crucial scientific studies and Station operations during these deployments.

Recognition And Awards

The scientific community has acknowledged Ellen Ochoa’s contributions to engineering, science, and space exploration. Throughout her career, she was honored with multiple medals from NASA, including the Outstanding Leadership Medal (1995), the Exceptional Service Medal (1997), and Space Flight Medals (2002, 1999, 1994, 1993).

Ochoa is not only a gifted scientist but also a skilled classical flute player. She is presently employed with the Johnson Space Center in Houston as the Director of Flight Crew Operations.

Leadership Roles

Ochoa made the move from a successful career as an astronaut to senior positions at NASA. She was the Johnson Space Center’s first Hispanic and second female director, having held the position as deputy director from 2007 to 2012 before taking over as director in 2013.


While employed at the Ames Research Centre, Ellen got to know Coe Fulmer Miles. He worked for NASA as a research scientist as well. Growing close, they tied the knot in 1990.


Astronaut Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993. She has flown in space four times, including STS-66, STS-96, and STS-110, logging nearly 1,000 hours in orbit.

Quick Facts

  • Title: Ellen Ochoa Biography
  • Name: Ellen Lauri Ochoa
  • Birth Year: 1958
  • Birth Date: May 10, 1958
  • Birth State: California
  • Birth City: Los Angeles
  • Birth Country: United States
  • Gender: Female
  • Known For: Ellen Ochoa became the world’s first Hispanic female astronaut in 1991.
  • Industries: Space Exploration
  • Astrological Sign: Taurus
  • Schools: Stanford University, San Diego State University, and More
  • Space Missions: STS-96, STS-56, STS-110, STS-66
  • First Space Flight: STS-56
  • Parents: Rosanne Ochoa, Joseph Ochoa
  • Nationality: American
  • Spouse: Coe Fulmer Miles (m. 1990)


  • I tell students that the opportunities I had were a result of having a good educational background. Education is what allows you to stand out.
  • What everyone in the astronaut corps shares in common is not gender or ethnic background, but motivation, perseverance, and desire – the desire to participate in a voyage of discovery.
  • We continue to not only operate the International Space Station but to increase its capabilities as well as commercial contributions.
  • I’ll tell you, being involved in human space flight, it is an emotional endeavor. I think it brings in the highest highs and the lowest lows.