Ellen Ochoa est diplômée de physique et a obtenu un doctorat de sciences et d’ingénierie en électricité de l’Université Stanford et plus spécialement en systèmes optiques pour les missions spatiales.
Elle commence à travailler au NASA Ames Research Center comme Responsable de la section Intelligent Systems Technology Branch.
Elle est sélectionnée comme astronaute par la NASA en 1990 dans le groupe 13.
Elle a effectué 4 missions à bord de la navette spatiale : STS-56 / STS-66 / STS-96 et STS-110.
Depuis 2007, elle est le Directeur-Adjoint du Johnson Space Center.
Interview réalisé par téléphone en février 2012
“Don’t be afraid to reach for the stars”(Ellen Ochoa)
When did you decide to become an astronaut ?
I decided I wanted to become an astronaut I was in graduate school. The Space Shuttle had just started to flying, and NASA was going to select more astronauts.
I wrote to NASA to get more information and realized I was eligible to apply. I was interested in space when I was younger, but NASA didn’t pick any women for the astronaut program until I was in college. As soon as I finished my doctorate, I applied to NASA, and was selected five years later in 1990.
How many flights have you been on and what did you do ?
I’ve been on four Shuttle missions : STS-56 in april 1993, STS-66 in November 1994, STS-96 in may 1999 and STS-110 in april 2002.
My first two flights had the goal of learning more about the Earth’s atmosphere and the Sun’s effect on it. In addition to doing science experiments, I used the Robotic Arm on both flights to release and capture science satellites.
My third and fourth flights docked with the new International Space Station. We moved supplies, like clothes and computers, from the Shuttle to the Station on one of these flights, and added a new piece of equipment to the station on my most recent flght.
What does it feel like during the launch ?
Initially there’s a lot of vibration and noise from the solid rocket boosters. We gain speed quickly and before long, it feel like someone is standing on your chest. After the boosters fall away from the shuttle, the ride is smoother and quieter. Ut as more fuel is used up, we again gain speed at a fast rate and feel pushed back into the seat. After 8 ½ minutes, cut off of engines and go instantaneously from feeling very heavy to weightlessness ! It was great each time.
|(Décollage de STS-56)|
|(Décollage de STS-66)|
|(Décollage de STS-96)|
|(Décollage de STS-110)|
What do you like most about being in space ?
It’s hard to pick just one thing because everything about being in space is exciting and different.
But the two best parts are being able to float in any direction, and being able to view the Earth from space.That’s something that I never get tired of doing since different parts of the Earth, at different times of day, always show something new.
What kind of food do you eat in space ?
I take up a lot of dried food, then add either hot or cold water to it before eating.
I have a pretty good selection of food including spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, lot of chicken and beef dishes, vegetables, cereal, etc…
I also take up some snack foods like trail mix, nuts and dried fruit.
We use tortillas rather than than bread to make sandwiches since tortillas don’t make crumps, which would then just float around the shuttle. Our drinks come as dried powder in enclose bags – we add water to them and drink them out of the bags using straws.