Meet Astronaut Ellen Ochoa
Ellen Ochoa is the first Latina ever to go to space. She’s also only the second female Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center — where she led the human space flight enterprise for the nation from 2013 to 2018. Ochoa is a trailblazer like no other. As an in-demand speaker, she touches on resonant issues that have defined her historic career: What can we learn about change, innovation, and the culture of teams from her time at the upper reaches of NASA’s leadership? And what can we do — really do — to ensure that more women and minorities find a place within STEM fields?
Ochoa is a STEM speaker for our generation. She’s a history-making astronaut, a brilliant inventor, a gifted corporate leader who left her mark on the culture of NASA, a role model for women executives, a hero of the Latinx community, and a lodestar for discussions about females and minorities pursuing scientific and technical fields. On stage, she brings it all together and draws lessons from her life in a down-to-earth style that has engaged hundreds of audiences across the country.
In 2013, Ochoa was named the 11th Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, becoming the first Latinx and the second female director to hold this prestigious position; she retired in 2018. An active astronaut since 1991, two years later, Ochoa became the first Latina to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the shuttle Discover. In total, she has flown in space four times, logging nearly 1,000 hours, leading onboard scientific activities, and serving as flight engineer during the launch, rendezvous, and entry phases of the mission. Ochoa is the recipient of many honors, including NASA's highest awards, the Distinguished Service Medal and the Presidential Distinguished Rank of the Senior Executive Service. She was recently featured in True Colors, a documentary series focusing on Hispanic trailblazers and thought leaders, including Major League Baseball player Alex Rodríguez, Hollywood actor Mario Lopez, and New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
In the corporate world, Ochoa has provided executive guidance to a variety of organizations. She is on the boards of Service Corporation International, Mutual of America, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and is Chair of the National Science Board. She previously chaired the Nomination Evaluation Committee of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation and has served on the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas board and the Stanford University Board of Trustees. She is a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors, the Latino Corporate Directors Association, and Women Corporate Directors.
Within the halls of higher education, Ellen Ochoa has received honorary doctorates from Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University among others. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the National Academy of Inventors and the Optical Society of America. She earned a B.S. in Physics from San Diego State University, and Ph.D. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford. Prior to her astronaut and management career, Ochoa was a research engineer. She holds three patents for optical systems. She is also a classical flautist and has played with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra. There are six schools named in her honor, and several books written about her.