Ellen was eleven years old when she saw the astronauts land on the moon on TV. Although it was exciting to watch, Ochoa didn’t consider a career as an astronaut because she was a girl and at that time only men were in the space progam. It was 14 more years before Sally Ride was the first US woman in space. Ellen’s mother believed education was very important and that was a foundation for her daughter’s career. As Ellen studied in high school and college, she became very interested in physics, math and engineering. Dr. Ochoa applied to NASA in 1985, 1987 and 1990; the third time she was selected for the astronaut program. Out of 2000 candidates, only 23 were chosen.
Ellen was born in California. Her dad’s father was from Mexico. Although Ellen’s father knew Spanish, he did not pass on the language because at that time families were encouraged to speak only English. Dr. Ochoa wishes her father had taught her Spanish.
Five Cool Facts about Dr. Ochoa
- PhD from Stanford in Electrical Engineering.
- First Latina accepted into the NASA astronaut training program.
- First Latina astronaut in space; read more about 4 missions, nearly 1000 hours
- First Latina Director of NASA! (the second woman)
- Six elementary and middle schools are named for her.
Latinas currently make up only 3% of people in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) Fields. Dr. Ochoa is working to change that. Ten Latinos are astronauts and two Latinas: Dr. Ochoa and Dr. Serena Auñón-Chancellor. A good start, that is the highest number of Latinas so far, but it is still quite low. I hope to see more women of color in space travel from the generation graduating college now; with their intellects, we may reach the stars.
Gracias for reading Fake Flamenco. Olé! –Rebecca