3. Ellen Ochoa
Like Sally Ride, Ellen Ochoa was a young Californian who dreamed of a career in science. She even attended Stanford University like Ride, though Ochoa earned her PhD in electrical engineering after Ride had moved on to the astronaut program.
She was selected for NASA’s astronaut program in 1990 and officially became an astronaut in 1991. When she finally went on her first space mission in 1993, Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to go to space. Since then, Ochoa has gone on four spaceflights and clocked over 1,000 hours in space.
Ochoa has also had a considerable research career with NASA. At the NASA Ames Research Center, Ochoa led a time that developed optical systems to aid in space exploration. In fact, she’s patented an optical system that can automatically pick out defects in a repeating pattern. She’s a co-inventor on three more optical patents, and has published or presented many papers in journals and at scientific conferences.
In 2007, Ochoa became the Deputy Director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. In 2013, she was promoted to Director of the Johnson Space Center, becoming the first Hispanic person to take on the job, and only the second woman.