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NASA Director and Hidden Figures Author Captivate Audience through Provost Summer Read Program

Hidden Figures Author Margot Lee Shetterly and Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa captivated the audience in a fireside chat and lecture to promote the Provost Summer Read Program.

Provost Paula Myrick Short welcomed Margot Lee Shetterly to speak to a packed Wortham Theatre on October 3, 2017. “There are individuals all around us who affect change without our knowledge, and it is up to us to seek out and recognize the hard work of these talented people in our lives” said Short. “I hope Margot Lee Shetterly’s presence with us this evening inspires you to consider the Hidden Figures within your own lives.”

Kicking off the fourth year of the Provost Summer Read Program, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race tells the story of a talented group of African American Women known as “Human Computers” who helped write the equations to launch rockets and astronauts into space. The novel became even more popular with an award-nominated film released in December of 2016.  

Following Shetterly’s talk, the author sat down with the Johnson Space Center’s first Hispanic female director and astronaut, Dr. Ellen Ochoa. Shetterly asked Ochoa about her experiences growing up watching those first astronauts go into space, and her own pathway towards becoming an astronaut. Through a doctorate in physics, Ochoa then pursued work in a research lab, where she was the only woman among 60 men. She talked about her positive transition to NASA, and the highly selective process of becoming an astronaut. She reminisced about being chosen from over 2,000 civilian applicants for the space program. “That phone call is one I will never forget” said Ochoa.

During her time as an astronaut, she logged over 978 hours in space. During her third mission, she and her crew performed the first docking into the International Space Station and delivered supplies to prepare for the first crew to live on the station.

After sharing about her experience with space travel, Ochoa then transitioned into talking about her role as the first Hispanic director of the Johnson Space Center.  The evening concluded with questions from the UH community.


For more on the Provost Summer Read Program, visit