Thursday, August 7, 2008
Happy birthday Jose Moreno Hernandez!
A very happy birthday to a true inspiration for anyone who feels as though the odds against them are insurmountable.
I don't care where you're from. I don't care how poor you are. I don't care what language you speak. I don't care how many people you shared a room with as a child.
This is America. IF YOU WANT SOMETHING BADLY ENOUGH, THEN YOU CAN GET IT.
Whining won't help. Bemoaning your lot in life won't help. Studying hard and working hard and believing in yourself - that will help.
Jose M. Hernandez was born August 7, 1962 in French Camp, California. He was one of four children born to migrant workers on what he calls the "California circuit", traveling from Mexico to Southern California each March, then working northward towards Stockton by November, picking strawberries and cucumbers. The Hernandez family would return to Mexico for Christmas and then start the cycle all over again.
"Some kids think it might be fun to travel like that," Hernandez laughs, "but we had to work. It wasn't a vacation."
One day, Jose was hoeing a row of beets, listening to his transistor radio. Over the radio came the news that Franklin Chang-Diaz had been selected as America's first Hispanic astronaut.
"I was already interested in science and engineering," Hernandez remembers, "but that was the moment I said 'I want to fly into space.' And that's something I've been striving for every day since then."
Jose learned to speak English at age 12, graduated Stockton High School at age 18, and enrolled in the University of the Pacific in Stockton, where he earned an electrical engineering degree.
He was then awarded a full scholarship to UC Santa Barbara for their graduate program. After this, he worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he eventually co-developed the first full-field digital mammography imaging system, which has proven useful in detecting breast cancer much earlier than traditional mammography.
During the astronaut application process, Jose walked into the oral board to find none other than Franklin Chang-Diaz on the panel. On May 6, 2004, Jose Hernandez was selected to Astronaut Group 19. It looks as though Hernandez will be one of the fortunate few from Group 19 to actually fly on the Shuttle. (The retirement of the shuttle will likely prevent most of this group from actually flying.)
He has been assigned as a Mission Specialist to STS-128, scheduled to fly no earlier than July 2009 or April 2009, depending on who you ask.