First Hispanic Female in Space 

In honor of Hispanic Heritage month, I thought it all too fitting to share a story of respect for the first Hispanic female astronaut in space, Ellen Ochoa.

The year was 1993.  April 8, 1993 to be exact. Ellen Ochoa and four other fellow astronauts would board the Space Shuttle Discovery for a 9-day mission.  Ochoa was a mission specialist aboard the Discovery.  This mission was officially called ATLAS-2: the Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science-2, which was designed to collect data on the relationship between the sun's energy output and Earth's middle atmosphere and how these factors affect the ozone layer.

The crew also made numerous radio contacts to schools around the world using Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment II, called SAREX II, including a brief radio contact with Russian Mir space station, the first ever such contact between Shuttle and Mir using amateur radio equipment.

Ochoa not only made history on April 8, 1993, but she would go on to serve on three other missions logging over 1000 hours in space, over 41 days.  Her last mission was in 2002. 

Ochoa’s paternal grandparents were originally from Sorona, Mexico. A state that borders Arizona and California.  She grew up in La Mesa, California and developed a keen interest in math, science, and music.  After high school, she would graduate from San Diego State University with a degree in physics in 1980. While in college, she played the flute for two years as part of the university marching band and for five years as a member of the university wind ensemble. In 1981 and 1985 respectively, she earned her master’s and doctorate in Electrical Engineering from Stanford.  This is where she began her research work on optical systems.

Her work in optical and computer systems for automated space exploration is what earned her respect and recognition in a field normally dominated by men.  The systems she developed while at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico and then with a team of researchers at NASA’s Ames Research Division in California, would prove to have important applications for data gathering and evaluating equipment safety.  The work in two of her missions provided valuable data about the damage to the Earth’s ozone layer in the mid-90s. 

Mrs. Ochoa’s contributions to science, and in particular space exploration, garnered her much recognition and respect. Over the course of her career, she has received seven awards from NASA, in addition to the Women in Aerospace Outstanding Achievement Award, the Hispanic Engineer Albert Baez Award for Outstanding Technical Contribution to Humanity, and the Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award. Other awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Exceptional Service Medal, Outstanding Leadership Medal, and four Space Flight Medals. In 1999, she was selected by then President Clinton to serve on the Presidential Commission on the Celebration of Women in American History. 

She currently serves as Director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.  In 2018, she was inducted into the International Air and Space Hall of Fame. She also has three schools in the greater Los Angeles area named in her honor. She also has schools named for her in the states of Washington, Texas, and Oklahoma.  Outside of her current research for NASA, she also gives back by traveling the country speaking to a variety of groups, many of whom are students.

Posted by [email protected] On 13 September, 2020 at 4:42 PM  

Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2024 SchoolMessenger Corporation. All rights reserved.