Five Fast Facts About Astronaut Ellen Ochoa

on April 11, 2016 at 5:00 PM


Astronaut Ellen Ochoa is our fourth and final woman in STEM #ThrowbackThursday for 2016. | Illustration by Carly Wilkins, Energy Department

It’s Women’s History Month on During the month of March, we’re highlighting the great contributions to science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM fields made by women of color throughout history, as well as taking a look at fascinating work that women are doing in STEM fields today.

Ellen Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she boosted to orbit with the space shuttle Discovery in 1993. She is a co-inventor on three patents for optical systems and is currently the director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Here are some more facts about Ochoa that you might not know:

  1. Before she became an astronaut, Ochoa was a researcher at the Energy Department’s Sandia National Lab and the NASA Ames Research Center.
  2. She is a classically trained flutist and thought she would pursue a music major in college. While studying for her doctorate in electrical engineering, she received the student soloist award from the Stanford Symphony Orchestra.
  3. Ochoa has spent a total of almost 1,000 hours in space aboard four different missions.
  4. There are four schools named after her — two in her home state of California, one in Texas and one in Washington.
  5. Ochoa applied to be an astronaut three times before being accepted by NASA in 1990. In between applications, she got her pilot’s license and continued her research in optics.