San Diego State University alum and veteran NASA astronaut Ellen Ochoa returned to SDSU on Wednesday to receive an honorary degree and speak to students.
Ochoa was the first Latinx woman to go to space in 1993 and the first Latinx and second female director of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas from 2013 to 2018. She has logged nearly 1,000 hours in space.
Ochoa’s visit was part of SDSU’s President’s Lecture Series. She received an honorary Doctor of Science degree in recognition of her role in space exploration and her commitment to the education of young people across the country.
The La Mesa native graduated from SDSU in 1980 with a degree in physics and later earned her master's and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from Stanford University.
“I couldn’t have imagined, when I was at San Diego State, the career I was going to have,” Ochoa said. “When I started here, women were still prevented from being astronauts; the first woman flew when I was in grad school.”
After receiving her honorary degree, Ochoa played video from one of her flights and delivered an address titled "From San Diego State to Space" discussing her journey from student to astronaut to an audience full of university students as well as high schoolers.
She hoped she was able to provide some inspiration for the students watching and listening. The one thing she wanted them to take away from her address: “Reach for the stars!”
Ochoa has also been recognized with NASA’s highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award for senior executives in the federal government. She was inducted into the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2017 and has six schools named after her.