Trailblazing Women You May Not Know (But Should): Ellen Ochoa
Each week, the Lean In tumblr will spotlight women who made a lasting mark on the world — yet didn’t always end up in the history books. This week we celebrate Ellen Ochoa, the first Latina astronaut.
Ellen Ochoa was 11 when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. Years later, she would become the first Latina to head into space — but she would never have believed that at the time. There were no female astronauts when she was growing up; at the University of San Diego, where she attended college, a professor told her to steer clear of engineering because the classes would be too difficult. "I never considered being an astronaut as an option because when I was growing up there were no female astronauts," she said.
And yet she graduated with a degree in Physics, and went on to receive a doctorate in electrical engineering. In 1990, she was selected from more than 2,000 applicants to enroll in NASA’s engineering training program; she made her first trip into space on the Discovery in 1993, where she made history as the first Latina astronaut.
Now 55, Ochoa made history again this year by becoming the first Hispanic director of the Johnson Space Center, NASA’s primary center for design, development, and testing of spacecraft systems. She says her goal there is what it always has been: “Trying to push the boundaries, trying to get to the next level.”
(Photo Credit: NASA/Getty Images)