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NASA’s First Hispanic Female Astronaut is a Total Badass

It seems as though the public believes that discrimination against women is a thing of the past; however, it was only in 1991 that the first Hispanic woman, Ellen Ochoa, became an astronaut. Not only is she an astronaut, she is also a researcher of advanced optical information systems. Ochoa flew her first shuttle mission in 1993 as a Mission Specialist with the Discovery crew, where they conducted atmospheric and solar studies in order to better understand the effect of solar activity on the Earth’s climate and environment. She has gone on three additional missions since then, and has logged nearly 1,000 hours in space. Since her last space mission in 2002, Ochoa has moved onto working on space exploration from Earth. In 2013, she became the director of flight crew operations at Houston’s Johnson Space Center. She is the second woman to hold this role.

Ochoa received her Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from San Diego State University in 1980. Then she went on to receive her Master of Science and Doctorate degrees at Stanford University.

Her achievements in NASA include the Distinguished Service Medal, Exceptional Service Medal, Outstanding Leadership Medal, and four Space Flight Medals. In addition, she has received the Harvard Foundation Science Award, the Women in Aerospace Outstanding Achievement Award, the HENAAC (Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Award), Engineer of the Year, The Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award, The California Hall of Fame, and the San Diego State University Alumna of the Year. Ochoa is a very accomplished woman and has done so much in her career.

Six schools have been named in her honor, including the Ellen Ochoa Middle School in Pasco, Washington; the Ellen Ochoa Learning Center in Cudahy, California; the Ellen Ochoa STEM Academy at Ben Milam Elementary in Grand Prairie, Texas; the Amino Ellen Ochoa Charter Middle School in Los Angeles; the Ellen Ochoa Prep Academy in Pico Rivera, California; and Ellen Ochoa Elementary in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Ochoa has received a total of three patents for her inventions. Her first patent was received during her time at Stanford University in 1987, for inventing an optical system designed to detect imperfections in repeating patterns, which can be used for quality control in the manufacturing of various intricate parts. Her other two patents were received in 1989 and 1990.

Not only does Ochoa work for NASA, but she also enjoys volleyball and is also a classical flutist. She won the Student Soloist Award of the Stanford Symphony Orchestra.

She is just one of many extraordinary women who have shown the world that women can be as successful, if not more successful, than men. This woman of many talents is one of the most exceptional idols for women everywhere – not only as a woman, but also as a minority woman. Ellen Ochoa is an inspiration and truly one of the most deserving honorable mentions. Her legacy will live on in history books long after she is gone.

Featured Image by NASA Kennedy on Flickr

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