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Monday, May 29, 2023

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Veteran NASA astronaut Ellen Ochoa earned a bachelor's degree in physics from SDSU. (Credit: NASA) Veteran NASA astronaut Ellen Ochoa earned a bachelor's degree in physics from SDSU. (Credit: NASA)

Ellen Ochoa Selected to U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame

The SDSU alumna is the first Hispanic woman to go to space.
By SDSU News Team

San Diego State University alumna and veteran NASA astronaut Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman to go to space and the current director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, will be inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Ochoa joined NASA in 1988 as a research engineer at Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California. She moved to JSC in 1990 as an astronaut candidate. After completing training, she served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993, conducting atmospheric studies to better understand the effect of solar activity on the Earth’s climate and environment. She has logged nearly 1,000 hours in orbit and participated in four space flights, including the first docking mission with the International Space Station.

“I’m honored to be recognized among generations of astronauts who were at the forefront of exploring our universe for the benefit of humankind,” Ochoa said. “I hope to continue to inspire our nation's youth to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math so they, too, may reach for the stars.”

Born in California, Ochoa earned a bachelor's degree in physics from SDSU and a master's degree and doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University. As a research engineer at Sandia National Laboratories and Ames Research Center, Ochoa investigated optical systems for use in information processing. She is a co-inventor on three patents and author of several technical papers.

Ochoa is JSC's first Hispanic director, and its second female director. Her previous management roles include JSC deputy director and JSC director of Flight Crew Operations.

Ochoa has been recognized with NASA's highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award for senior executives in the federal government. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, serves on several boards, and chairs the Nomination Evaluation Committee for the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

SDSU honored Ochoa as Distinguished Alumna of the Year in 1995. She is an SDSU Alumni lifetime member and has visited campus several times to meet and talk with students.