Latina astronaut to share experiences

By Thomas Owens

For those of you who reach for the stars, there will be a speaker who will inspire you to shine.

Ellen Ochoa, the first and only Latina astronaut, will be speaking at 7 p.m. tonight in the Skyroom of the Holmes Student Center. The event is cosponsored by Alpha Psi Lambda, the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies and Organization for Latin American Students.

She will be discussing her experiences on being an astronaut, which included a nine-day Discovery mission earlier this year.

Paul Alvarez, president of Alpha Psi Lambda, said, “She is a very good role model not only for Latino students, but all students who want to reach a certain level and think they can’t.”

Alvarez said Ochoa’s speech is just one of the events Alpha Psi Lambda has sponsored to promote cultural awareness. Past events included the author/poet Louis Rodriguez, a nooner mariachi band and salsa band.

Ochoa is 35 years old and based at Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston. She is a native of Los Angeles but considers her home to be La Mesa, Calif. She graduated valedictorian from San Diego State University in 1980 with a bachelor of science degree in physics.

In 1981, she received her master of science degree and in 1985, her doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University.

In January 1990, she was selected by NASA and by July 1991 she became an astronaut. She eventually becme qualified as a mission specialist for future Space Shuttle flight crews. Her past technical assignments include work on Space Shuttle verification in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory.

Ochoa’s past awards include fellowships from Stanford and IBM, student soloist award winner on the flute for the Stanford Symphony Orchestra (1983), Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Award as Most Promising Engineer in Government (1989) and the National Hispanic Quincentennial Pride Award (1990).

Ochoa is on a public speaking tour, and recently she conducted a live transmission from space to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. On Oct. 29, she will be the recipient of an award at the United States Leadership Conference.