HOUSTON -

The director of the Johnson Space Center is retiring.

Michael L. Coats will retire at the end of the year after leading the center since 2005.

Ellen Ochoa, who has been the deputy director since Sept. 2007, will replace Coats.

"Ellen’s enthusiasm, experience and leadership, including her superb job as deputy director, make her a terrific successor to Mike as director of JSC," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.

Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard space shuttle Discovery in 1993. She has flown into space four times.

Before Ochoa became an astronaut, she was a research engineer and inventor. She has three patents for optical systems.

Ochoa served as deputy director of flight crew operations at JSC in December 2002 and director of flight crew operations in September 2006. She will be JSC's first Hispanic director and its second female director. Dr. Carolyn L. Huntoon served as JSC director from 1994 to 1995.

Coats is also a former astronaut. He will be concluding a 44-year career that includes 20 years with NASA. He is also a retired U.S. Navy captain.