Major kudos to astronaut Ellen Ochoa, a graduate of San Diego State University who grew up in La Mesa, and was recently named the new director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Ochoa is 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 more than 1,000 hours in orbit.

Before her astronaut career, she was a research engineer and inventor. She has three patents to her name for optical systems.

Ochoa has been the deputy director at the Houston space center since 2007. She succeeds Michael L. Coats who retires at the end of this year after leading the Johnson center since 2007.

“Ellen’s enthusiasm, experience and leadership, including her superb duty as deputy director, make her a terrific successor to Mike as director of JSC,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

— SDBJ Staff Report