Johnson Space Center director was first Hispanic woman to go to space

More than two decades ago, a Hispanic woman launched a career that would solidify her place in history.

Selected by NASA in 1990, Ellen Lauri Ochoa became an astronaut in 1991.

In 1993, she embarked on a nine-day space mission. It was the first time a Hispanic woman went to space.

Since then, Ochoa has logged nearly 1,000 hours in space, completing four space flights during her career as an astronaut.

The 1993 mission wasn’t the last time Ochoa made history, however.

The former astronaut currently serves as the director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, one of NASA’s largest research facilities, in Houston. Taking over for Michael L. Coats in 2012, Ochoa became the first Hispanic director at the Johnson Space Center. She is the second woman to hold the position.

Born in 1958 in Los Angeles, Ochoa considers La Mesa, Calif., to be her hometown.

She received a bachelor of science in physics from San Diego State University in 1980, and a master of science degree and a doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1981 and 1985, respectively.

Prior to becoming an astronaut in 1991, Ochoa worked as a research engineer and inventor. During this time, she patented three inventions for optical systems.

Ochoa has received numerous awards for her accomplishments, including Women in Aerospace Outstanding Achievement Award. Four schools in the U.S. have been named after her.

While Ochoa has a solid background in engineering, she also has experience as a classical flutist and a private pilot.

Ochoa is married to Coe Miles. They have two children.

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