Educated Pacific; UCSB.
Official NASA Biography - May 2004
Jose Hernandez, Mission Specialist
BORN: French Camp, California
EDUCATION:BS, Electrical Engineering, University of the Pacific, 1984; MS, Electrical Engineering, University of California-Santa Barbara
CURRENT JOB: Chief, Materials and Processes Branch, Johnson Space Center
QUICK FACT: His work at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the 1990s contributed to a new tool for early breast cancer detection.
QUOTE: Recalling the selection of Hispanic-American astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz: "That was the moment I said, 'I want to fly in space.' And that's something I've been striving for each day since then."
NASA engineer Jose Hernandez remembers exactly where he was when he heard the first Hispanic-American had been chosen to travel into space.
"I was hoeing a row of sugar beets in a field near Stockton, Calif., and I heard on my transistor radio that Franklin Chang-Diaz had been selected for the Astronaut Corps," says Hernandez, 41, who was a senior in high school at the time.
"I was already interested in science and engineering," Hernandez remembers, "but that was the moment I said, 'I want to fly in space.' And that's something I've been striving for each day since then."
Hernandez's work is now paying off. He has been selected to begin training as a mission specialist this summer as part of the 2004 astronaut candidate class.
One of four children in a migrant farming family from Mexico, Hernandez -- who didn't learn English until he was 12 years old -- spent much of his childhood on what he calls "the California circuit," traveling with his family from Mexico to southern California each March, then working northward to the Stockton area by November, picking strawberries and cucumbers at farms along the route. Then they would return to Mexico for Christmas, and start the cycle all over again come spring.
"Some kids might think it would be fun to travel like that," Hernandez laughs, "but we had to work. It wasn't a vacation."
After graduating high school in Stockton, Hernandez enrolled at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, where he earned a degree in electrical engineering and was awarded a full scholarship to the graduate program at the University of California in Santa Barbara, where he continued his engineering studies. In 1987 accepted a full-time job with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he had worked as a co-op in college.
In the early 1990s, his work at Lawrence Livermore with a commercial partner led to development of the first full-field digital mammography imaging system, a tool in the early detection of breast cancer. Most recently, he has worked as a NASA engineer at Johnson Space Center in Houston, supporting Space Shuttle and International Space Station missions.
During the astronaut application process, Hernandez had to meet with a review board. That's where he came face-to-face with his original inspiration: Franklin Chang-Diaz.
"It was a strange place to find myself, being evaluated by the person who gave me the motivation to get there in the first place," Hernandez says. "But I found that we actually had common experiences -- a similar upbringing, the same language issues. That built up my confidence. Any barriers that existed, he had already hurdled them."
Hernandez smiles. "Now it's my turn."
Birth Place: French Camp, California.
Spaceflights: 1 .
Total time in space: 13.87 days.
Mission Specialists: Bachelor's degree in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics and minimum three years of related experience or an advanced degree. Vision minimum 20/150 uncorrected, correctable to 20/20. Maximum sitting blood pressure of 140/90. Height between 150 and 193 cm.. Due to a surplus of astronauts and a dearth of missions, NASA cancelled the planned 2002 astronaut selection. The next call for applications was made in May 2003, with a due date of 1 July. 'Educator astronauts' were especially requested, and 1100 applications were received in this category. The final selection was two pilots and nine mission specialists; nine men and two women. Given the drastic reduction if shuttle flights and ISS crew size planned for the post-Columbia disaster period, the chances for astronauts from this group flying in the next decade seemed slim indeed. Also training in this group were three NASDA astronauts from Japan.