La Mesa hometown hero and astronaut Ellen Ochoa was recently named the new director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston. Ochoa, who considers La Mesa to be her hometown, was the first Hispanic woman to travel into space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993. She has flown in space four times, and logged nearly 1,000 hours in orbit. Before her astronaut career, she was a research engineer and inventor, with three patients for optical systems. Ochoa served as deputy director at the Houston space center since 2007. Ochoa earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from San Diego State University and a master’s degree and doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. She managed the Intelligent Systems Technology Branch at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., before being selected as an astronaut in 1990. She flew on shuttle missions STS-56 in 1993, STS-66 in 1994, STS-96 in 1999, and STS-110 in 2002, logging a total of 978 hours in space. Ochoa succeeded Michael Coats who retired at the end of 2012 after leading the Johnson center since 2007.
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