Johnson Research Center

First Hispanic Female Astronaut & Director of NASA JSC

In 2012 Dr. Ellen Ochoa became the current and 11th Director of NASA Johnson Space Center, 2nd female and 1st Hispanic. She served as Deputy Director from September 2007 until 2012.

Dr. Ellen Ochoa was born on May 10, 1958 in Los Angeles, CA, but considers Las Mesa, California to be her hometown. She received her bachelor of science degree in physics from San Diego State University, and a master of science degree and doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Dr. Ochoa has worked throughout her career with optical systems and is a co-inventor on three patents relating to optical systems. She was the Chief of Intelligent Systems Technology at the Ames Research Center and supervised 35 engineers and scientists.

Dr. Ellen Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman to become an Astronaut. Sally Ride, the first woman Astronaut in the United States, was one of her role models. Ochoa is not only an Astronaut but also an inventor, holding three patents.

Selected by NASA in January 1990, Dr. Ochoa is a veteran of four space flights (STS-56, STS-66, STS-96, STS-110). She first flew in space on the shuttle Discovery in 1993. She has logged 978 hours in space. Her most recent mission was aboard the space shuttle Atlantis in April, 2002. This was an 11-day mission that visited the International Space Station. Dr. Ellen Ochoa operated the Station’s robotic arm to maneuver spacewalkers around the Station. This marked the first time that the Station’s robotic arm was used to maneuver space walker around the Station. In 2002, she became Deputy Director of Flight Crew Operations, and in 2006 she was named Director of Flight Crew Operation at Johnson.


Dr. Ochoa earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from San Diego State University and a master’s degree and doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.


In 2015, Dr. Ellen Ochoa was inducted into the California Hall of Fame and was named the Hispanic Female Executive of the Year by the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

She has four schools named after her: Ellen Ochoa Middle School in Pasco, Washington; Ellen Ochoa Elementary School in Cudahy, CA; Animo Ellen Ochoa Charter Middle School in East LA, CA; and Ellen Ochoa STEM Academy at Ben Milam Elementary School in Grand Prairie, Texas.

She has received honorary doctor of science degrees from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (2003) and Penn State (2015)

She is the winner of the Society’s 2016 Space Pioneer Award for Non-Legislative Government Service

On-Line Articles &/or Profile links:

  • Johnson Space Center Director Dr. Ellen Ochoa (April 2016)
  • Career Girls: Astronaut, Ellen Ochoa (Jan 2011)
  • Dr. Ellen Ochoa becoming Deputy Director of Johnson (Sept 2007)
  • NASA JSC – Astronaut Biographies
  • NASA’s First Female Hispanic Astronaut Shares Experiences (June 2003)
  • On-line interview(s) at: GraduatingEngineer (Nov 1999)

MARCH 2017

NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) is located in Houston, Texas; it was established in 1961 as the Manned Spacecraft Center. The Center was renamed in 1973 in honor of the late President Lyndon B. Johnson.

NASA JSC serves as the lead NASA center for the International Space Station — a U.S.-led collaborative effort of 16 nations, and the largest, most powerful, complex human facility to ever operate in space.

NASA JSC is also home to the NASA astronaut corps, and is responsible for training space explorers from the United States and our space station partner nations. As such, it is the principal training site for both space shuttle crews and International Space Station Expedition crews.

For more information, visit NASA Johnson Space Center home page.