Have you ever had a dream that was out of this world? That you would do anything in your power to achieve it. Dr. Ellen Ochoa had a dream, and it took her to space and beyond.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Ochoa was born into a Mexican-American household with her four siblings. In 1993, she made history as the first Hispanic to go to space when she served on the nine-day STS-56 mission on the Discovery space shuttle. In total, she has flown into space four times and has logged in nearly 1000 hours in orbit.
Ochoa received her bachelor’s degree in physics from San Diego State University and a master’s degree and doctorate from Stanford University in electrical engineering. She served as the 11th director of the Johnson Space Center (JSC), being JSC’s first Hispanic director and second women director. She holds multiple awards, some including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award.
Ochoa continues to serve as an inspiration to the world, especially to girls and women studying science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). She may be one of the first Hispanics to break barriers in NASA, but she certainly isn’t the last—many more Hispanics have paved the way for the next generation of NASA, such as astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, Deputy Director of NASA’s Astrophysics Division, Sandra Cauffman, and Program Manager of NASA’s Astrophysics and Heliophysics Research and Analysis Office, Farisa Morales.
According to a recent NBC News article, only 8% of the Hispanic population is in the STEM workforce. It’s clear that many in the Hispanic community are making strides in STEM, but we must encourage our family, siblings, and friends to keep going.
Are you a student interested in STEM? Have a family member who has an interest in NASA? Here are a few resources that can help:
- The Society of Professional Engineers (SHPE)
- NASA STEM Resources for Students Grades 9-12
- Pathways to Science: Education and Career Training Opportunities in STEM
Reach for the stars as Dr. Ellen Ochoa did, and never feel like your dream is too big to achieve. The sky may be the limit, but the universe isn’t.