2023 Gala Honoree – Ellen Ochoa

Ellen Ochoa

Ellen Ochoa’s 30-year career at NASA culminated in serving as Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center from 2013 to 2018, leading the human space flight enterprise for the nation. She became the first Latina to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the shuttle Discovery in 1993. She has flown in space four times, logging nearly 1,000 hours, leading onboard scientific activities, operating the robotic arm, and serving as flight engineer during the launch, rendezvous, and entry phases of the mission.

Dr. Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1993. The purpose of the Shuttle mission was to study the Earth’s ozone layer. A veteran of four space flights, Ochoa has logged nearly 1000 hours in space. She was a mission specialist on STS-56 (1993), was the payload commander on STS-66 aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis (1994), a mission specialist and flight engineer on STS-96 again aboard Space Shuttle Discovery (1999), and STS-110 once again aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis (2002).

From 2007, after retiring from spacecraft operations, Ochoa served as Deputy Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, helping to manage and direct the Astronaut Office and Aircraft Operations. On January 1, 2013, Ochoa became the first Hispanic and second female director of the Johnson Space Center

Dr. Ochoa is the recipient of many awards including NASA’s highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Presidential Distinguished Rank of the Senior Executive Service, the RNASA National Space Trophy, and eight honorary doctorates. She is in the Astronaut Hall of Fame, the Government Hall of Fame, the California Hall of Fame, and the International Air & Space Hall of Fame.

Prior to her astronaut and management career, Dr. Ochoa was a research engineer and holds three patents for optical systems. She earned a Ph.D. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford and a B.S. in Physics from San Diego State University. She is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), and the Optical Society of America (OSA).