Everything you need to know about Adriana Ocampo

Adriana´s life | The scientific importance | New Horizons | Other achievements

Do you want to know why colombian women are relevant in the world of science? For that, you need to know the story of Adriana Ocampo. She is a woman who was given the opportunity to transcend the norm within the country. She even became a participant in different NASA space projects. We tell you more about this. 

Adriana´s life: what is her biography?

Born in Barranquilla on January 5th, she is a planetary geologist. At the age of 14, she moved to California, where she studied physics and calculus. From a young age, she showed great interest in science. For example, in high school, she was part of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

In 1973, while still in high school, she got a summer job at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. There she spent her time analyzing images sent back by the Viking spacecraft – a Mars exploration program. By 1980, she had earned her U.S. citizenship.

This allowed her to study Aerospace Engineering at Pasadena City College. She then went on to California State University. There she earned a B.S. in Geology in 1983. She then began working as a research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. By 1997, she received a B.S. in Planetary Geology. She then obtained a Ph. D. at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam (Kathuria, 2017).

The scientific importance of this woman

All these feats allowed her to begin to spend time working at different space agencies on the planet. For example, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Ocampo got to study the Juno space probe on Jupiter. She also worked on missions to Pluto and was the scientist in charge of the European Space Agency.

Currently, she is the director of NASA’s science program. Being the first Colombian woman is a milestone in space history. She was the first person to identify a cenote ring through satellite images. Her research of the Chicxulub crater has allowed us to understand more about this phenomenon (INAH, 2008).

The importance of New Horizons

All her achievements lead to her main feat which was the mission to Pluto. For many years, this was believed to be an impossible space mission. In the past, because of its enormous distance from the sun, it was impossible to obtain clear images of Pluto. However, the New Horizons mission, led by Ocampo, achieved the feat.

It was a long-term endeavor. The mission began on January 19, 2006, but the first approach to the dwarf planet only occurred on July 14, 2015. The probe passed 12,500 kilometers from the surface, at a speed of 49,600 km/h.

During those years, because it took such a long time, many scientists believed that the probe would not achieve its task. However, NASA’s unmanned space mission succeeded. Today, this achievement has allowed us to obtain high-resolution images of Pluto. That’s not all. 

Through this mission, led by Adriana, they were able to obtain sharp pictures of Pluto’s 5 moons (Verano de la Rosa, 2018). That is, of Charon, Hydra, Nix, Kerberos, and Styx. This achievement made it possible to study the characteristics of each one.

What are her other achievements?

Here are her other achievements:

  • By 1996, Ocampo managed to discover the Aorounga Crater Chain in Chad. Since then, she continues to search for impact craters. She even mentioned that there might be one in Cali, Colombia (Macho Stadler, 2019). 
  • She was named “woman of the year in science” in 1992. This award was for her great scientific achievements. 
  • She received the award from the Mexican Women’s Commission of Los Angeles.
  • Also, in 1996 she won the Technology Award of the Chicano Federation in 1997. That is when she discovered these phenomena (Forbes, 2020).

In addition to her scientific background, Ocampo is known for her positive vision for the future. More specifically, she believes that, over the next decade, humanity could explore new worlds. She even believes that there is a good chance that we will meet new civilizations.

Without a doubt, Adriana is a colombian woman who has achieved many scientific milestones. We are likely to see more of her fundamental achievements in the years to come. 


Forero, H. (2004). “Su obra”, de Beatriz González. Universidad Autónoma de Bucaramanga. https://www.redalyc.org/pdf/110/11061118.pdf

Laverde, M.  (1999). Desplazamientos, decisiones y tránsitos en la obra de Beatriz González. Revista Nómadas. https://www.redalyc.org/pdf/1051/105114274010.pdf

Meneses, F. (2018). Los suicidas del Sisga. Historia del arte. https://historia-arte.com/obras/los-suicidas-del-sisga

Walsh, C. (2003). Estudios culturales latinoamericanos, retos desde y sobre la región andina. Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar. http://www.ceapedi.com.ar/imagenes/biblioteca/libreria/340.pdf