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Astronaut Ellen Ochoa

A love of science sent this pioneer to space.

  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

When Ellen Ochoa was in high school she said that other students put her down because she liked science. Now she is Dr. Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman to ever go into space, an inventor, and a mother. She is also a mentor, helping young girls pursue their dreams not matter what they are.

At a mentoring event in Denver, Colorado, recently, Ochoa told students that even some of her teachers didn't think she would ever go far in the field of science. Thanks to groundbreaking women like Ochoa, that is no longer true. She urged students to look to teachers for help.

"Turn to teachers, they want you to succeed," she told the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

Ochoa was born in 1958 in California. She loved math and science in school and played the flute. At the time, she dreamed of becoming a musician. She remembers that she was 11 when man first walked on the moon. This was not what inspired her to become an astronaut, however.

"It just wasn't what girls wanted to be then," she said.

It wasn't until she was 25 that Sally Ride became the first woman astronaut in space. At the time, Ochoa was a graduate student at Stanford University. After earning her doctorate, she decided to apply to NASA, the nation's space agency.

She faced many obstacles on the way to becoming an astronaut, starting with rejection of her first application! But she kept on trying — hard.

Ochoa got another job and five years later tried again. This time she was accepted and began her training. Her first flight was in 1993 aboard the space shuttle Discovery. She flew again in 1994, 1999, and 2002.

Ochoa is also an inventor. Her inventions include optical recognition systems, computer hardware, and robots. All help with NASA's ability to refine images from space.

Ochoa is a mother as well. In space, she stayed connected to her family through video chats. She once had to wish one of her kids a happy birthday from space.

Whatever the sacrifices and hard work, Ochoa said it has all been worth it. She says the key to success is to never stop learning. She also highly recommends teamwork.

"Whenever we accomplished a mission, it was very rewarding," she said. "Everyone feels great, even with a little contribution."

Ochoa had some advice for those who want to achieve a goal, no matter how difficult.

"If you are interested in something, you still need to learn other things," she said. "Try hard if you want to do it."

Celebrate Women's History Month

For more on the achievements and contributions of women in the United States, check out the Scholastic Kids Press Corps' Women's History Month Special Report.

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Scholastic Kids Press Corps

The Scholastic Kids Press Corps is a team of 32 student reporters who report "news for kids, by kids." Sports, politics, and entertainment are among the topics they cover.