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SDSU Alumna Tabbed to Lead Space Center

Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman to go to space, will be the next director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

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Ellen Ochoa

Former astronaut and SDSU alumna Ellen Ochoa will be the next director at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

"Ellen’s enthusiasm, experience and leadership, including her superb job as deputy director, make her a terrific successor as director of the Johnson Space Center," said Charles Bolden, a former astronaut.

About Ochoa

Ochoa, who considers La Mesa, Calif., to be her hometown, became the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993.

She has flown in space four times, logging nearly 1,000 hours in orbit. Prior to her astronaut career, she was a research engineer and inventor, with three patents for optical systems.

Ochoa earned a bachelor's degree in physics from San Diego State University. She said SDSU professor Richard Morris inspired her to pursue her dreams.

After SDSU, Ochoa received a master's degree and doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.

She managed the Intelligent Systems Technology Branch at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., before being selected as an astronaut in 1990. She flew on shuttle missions, including:

  • STS-56 in 1993
  • STS-66 in 1994
  • STS-96 in 1999
  • STS-110 in 2002

Her missions logged a total of 978 hours in space.

Ochoa served as deputy director of flight crew operations at JSC in December 2002 and director of flight crew operations in September 2006. She will be JSC's first Hispanic director and its second female director. 

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