After a 30-year career with NASA, Dr. Ellen Ochoa is retiring as director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston at the end of May.
On Thursday, May 17, I had the great privilege of attending the retirement celebration for the administrator, engineer, and astronaut.
Listening to former crew mates, NASA colleagues, and family friends pay tribute to her character, work ethic, and talents, was genuinely inspiring.
Upon appointment as the 11th director of JSC in 2013, Ochoa is the first Hispanic and only the second female to hold that role. However, she had already been a trailblazer in America’s space program. In 1993, she became the first Latina in Space on the STS-56 mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. Ochoa was selected for 4 missions, logging more than 1,000 in orbit, according to her NASA bio.
Prior to joining the astronaut corps, she was a research engineer at Sandia National Laboratories and NASA Ames Research Center.
Various directorates, departments and individuals presented gifts and told a few jokes. The current crew aboard the International Space Station even delivered a special congratulatory message.
My fellow board members of the ‘Remembering Columbia’ NASA Museum presented her with small token of appreciation for her years of support and friendship. Dr. Ochoa has regularly participated in annual STS-107 Columbia memorial ceremonies in Sabine County and helped open the door to partnerships between the museum and the Johnson Space Center.
Museum curator Belinda Gay also appointed Ochoa as an honorary member of the board.
Dr. Ochoa’s last day at NASA is May 25. Current JSC Deputy Director Mark S. Geyer will succeed Ochoa as director.
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