Sunday, April 14, 2013

Geek Mom of the Month. Ellen Ochoa

This month I will be honoring an amazing mother, scientist, Latina and astronaut: Ellen Ochoa.

She is the first Hispanic female cosmonaut and sadly so far the only one. She has around 1,000 hours accumulated in space and she also has researched extensively optics systems to detect defects in a repeating pattern, owning three patents to date. She is currently the Director of the Johnson Space Center.

She was born on May 10, 1958 in Los Angeles and we almost lost her to her other passion music, since she planned to make it her professional career. Luckily for us the geek muse song was stronger than the flute's and after receiving her Bachelor's degree on Physics she pursued a Master's degree and a PHD in electrical engineering from Stanford University.

She didn't forget her classical musical training taking her flute with her to orbit. She is one of the few musicians in the world to have, the rare privilege of playing in zero gravity with the notes floating around her like an space siren.

It was another female astronaut Sally Ride with her amazing accomplishments that inspired her to continue her love for science by pursuing a career in Aerospace. She was accepted into NASA's astronaut training program in 1990 and in April of 1993, she  traveled into space for the first time, in the Discovery Space Shuttle.

In her missions she operated the Station's robotic arm several times. To maneuver space-walkers around the Station, to deploy and capture the Spartan satellite, which studied the solar corona. She also used the RMS to retrieve the CRISTA-SPAS atmospheric research satellite. Among other duties and studies.

Dr. Ochoa has received seven awards from NASA to date, in addition to the Women in Aerospace Outstanding Achievement Award, the Hispanic Engineer Albert Baez Award for Outstanding Technical Contribution to Humanity, and the Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award. In 1999, she was selected by then President Clinton to serve on the Presidential Commission on the Celebration of Women in American History.

Playing the flute in space!

She also has two schools named after her: Ellen Ochoa Middle School in Pasco, Washington, and the Ellen Ochoa Learning Center in Cudahy, California. And is Member of the Optical Society of America (OSA), the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi honor societies.

She is married to Coe Fulmer Miles, with whom she has two sons. Ochoa and her husband would encourage them to become astronauts, if they choose. "Being an astronaut is a wonderful career," Ochoa said. "I feel very privileged. But what I really hope for young people is that they find a career they're passionate about, something that's challenging and worthwhile."

I dream that in the near future, we will work as a species to reach the moon again and among the privileged ones we will have the first woman to set foot 'La luna'.  I'm sure that whoever she might be. It will be the road started by pioneer women as Dr Ochoa that will make it possible. She is a  wonderful example for all women and future mothers of the world that love science into pursuing their rightful place among the stars.

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