José Moreno Hernández was born on August 7, 1962, in California. He is an American engineer of Mexican descent and a NASA astronaut. Hernandez grew up picking cucumbers and tomatoes in the fields of California's San Joaquin Valley. His parents, Salvador and Julia, had migrated from Mexico to Northern California in the 1950s in search of work. They eventually became U.S. citizens and raised four children, including Jose, the youngest.
As a child, Hernandez continued to visit his parents' home state of Michoacan and lived what he has called the typical life of a migrant worker, moving constantly with his family to follow the crops. In an August 25, 2009 conversation with President Felipe Calderón of Mexico, Hernández stated that as a child, he lived half the year in La Piedad and half in the United States. As a child, Hernández worked alongside his family throughout the fields of California, harvesting crops and moving from one town to another. He attended many schools and didn't learn to speak English until he was 12.
It was a second-grade teacher who persuaded Hernandez's parents to set down roots near Stockton to give their children a better education and more stable life. Young Jose excelled in math and today traces his dream of becoming an astronaut to the Apollo spacewalks he watched on TV. After earning bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering, Hernandez applied every year for 12 years to enter the space program, finally being chosen in 2004. Hernandez, a father of five, cited two crucial factors: a good education and parents who forced him to study, who checked his homework and stayed involved in his schooling. It is clear that Education is the great equalizer and together with strong family support, persistence and resilience created the recipe for success for Hernandez. "What I always say to Latino parents, is that we shouldn't spend so much time going out with friends drinking beer and watching telenovelas, and should spend more time with our families and kids . . . challenging our kids to pursue dreams that may seem unreachable," he said.
At NASA, Hernandez worked various technical assignments until his selection on July 15, 2008, as a mission specialist of the STS-128 mission, which launched on August 28, 2009. While in orbit, Hernandez became the first person to use the Spanish language in space on Twitter. STS-128 mission ended its 14 days journey on September 11, 2009 at Edwards Air Force Base, California at 5:53 pm PST. Hernandez is a full-fledged media star in Mexico and in Mexican-American neighborhoods. Fans followed his every floating, gravity-free move during his two-week journey in space as he Twittered from the shuttle Discovery and gave live interviews to local TV programs.
After the shuttle returned, Hernandez told Spanish television that he thought the U.S. should pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform and allow the millions of undocumented immigrants living here to become legalized so that they can work openly because they are important to the American economy.
Hernandez is currently assigned to the crew of Space Shuttle mission STS-128. Hernandez also served as chief of the Materials and Processes branch of Johnson Space Center. He previously developed equipment for full-field digital mammography at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Hernandez is married and has five children, ages 6 to 14. His wife, Adela, runs a Mexican restaurant just outside the Johnson Space Center gates, called Tierra Luna Grill, Spanish for Earth Moon Grill. In September 2009, Hernandez began speaking out to support a legalization path for immigrants: "Having 12 million undocumented people here means there's something wrong with the system, and the system needs to be fixed.
Awards and Honors:
NASA Service Awards (2002, 2003), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory “Outstanding Engineer Award” (2001), Upward Bound National TRIO Achiever Award (2001), U.S. Department of Energy “Outstanding Performance Commendation” (2000), Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists (MAES) “Medalla de Oro” recipient for professional and community contributions (1999), Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Award, “Outstanding Technical Contribution” (1995), Graduate Engineering Minority Fellow (GEM) (1985), Eta Kappa Nu Electrical Engineering Honor Society member and awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from University of California-Santa Barbara.