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.
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.
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:
- Maintain a positive attitude always,
- Be thankful for this situation, which gave us the gift of time without loved ones,
- 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.