From harvest, to space: A Latino astronaut’s perspective on today’s challenges

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Jose Hernandez, a retired astronaut, and son of migrant workers, was rejected by NASA nearly a dozen times before finally being accepted. José Cárdenas spoke with Hernandez about the challenges he faced on his way to space.

From harvest,

Hernandez was a distinguished lecturer for the Spanish Business Student Association at ASU and spoke about his transition from working in the fields to becoming an astronaut.

“I talked about my upbringing as a migrant farmworker coming from a family that spent three months in Central Mexico, and then we would follow the harvest in California: spending two months in Southern California, two months in Central California, and five months in Northern California,” Hernandez said.

The family followed this cycle year by year until Hernandez’s 2nd-grade teacher convinced Hernandez’s parents to settle down, and it wasn’t until Hernandez was 12 that he became fluent in English.

To space:

Mesmerized by Gene Cernan’s walk on the moon and Walter Cronkite’s narration of the landing, a young Hernandez became fascinated with a dream to do the same.

“If you could picture an image of a ten-year-old boy watching a black and white TV, holding onto a rabbit-ear antenna to improve reception with your grandma’s tejero (tile-maker) knitting at the bottom of the antenna and watching the very last Apollo mission, Apollo 17 — that was me 1972, December,” Hernandez said.

After pursuing a degree in engineering, Hernandez was selected in 2004 to be an astronaut and trained for almost four years before his mission.

“We flew on the space shuttle Discovery STS-128 Mission on Aug. 28, 2009, to a 14-day mission to the International Space Station. We were the second to last mission to complete the construction of the station,” said Hernandez, who served as the crew’s flight engineer.

A Latino astronaut’s perspective on today’s challenges. 

“I took those experiences and tried to summarize it with respect to what we’re experiencing today and say, ‘How can I make the lives easier for people based on my experience’,” said Hernadez, reminding people to:

  1. Maintain a positive attitude always,
  2. Be thankful for this situation, which gave us the gift of time without loved ones,
  3. And to keep yourself healthy.

After a push from President Barack Obama,

Hernadez ran for a seat in California’s 10th congressional district in 2011. Hernandez will consider running for congress again once his five kids finish their college education.




Jose Hernandez, Retired Astronaut

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