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Jose Hernández (astronaut)

José Hernández
NASA Astronaut
Nationality American
Status Retired[1]
Born (1962-08-07) August 7, 1962 (age 51)
French Camp, California
Other occupation Engineer
Time in space 13d 20h 54m[2]
Selection 2004 NASA Group
Missions STS-128
Mission insignia

José Moreno Hernández (born on August 7, 1962), is an American engineer and a former NASA astronaut.

Hernández was born in French Camp, California, but calls Stockton, California, his hometown. His family is from La Piedad, Michoacán, with indigenous Purépecha roots.[3][4] 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.[4] As a child, Hernández worked alongside his family and other farmworkers 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.[5] Hernández was assigned to the crew of Space Shuttle mission STS-128. He also served as chief of the Materials and Processes branch of Johnson Space Center. Hernández previously developed equipment for full-field digital mammography at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Hernández left NASA in 2011.

In October 2011, Hernández announced that, at the urging of President Barack Obama, he would run as a Democrat for California's newly redrawn 10th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives.[6] In the national elections of 2012 he faced freshman incumbent Representative Jeff Denham in a race that was considered competitive.[7]


José Hernández participated in (MESA) program, an academic preparation program that provides support to students from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds so they can attain four-year degrees in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields.

He earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of the Pacific in 1984. In 1986, Hernández earned an Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Awards and honors

Hernández has earned or been awarded:

  • Graduate Engineering Minority Fellow (GEM) (1985)
  • Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Award, “Outstanding Technical Contribution” (1995)
  • Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists (MAES) “Medalla de Oro” recipient for professional and community contributions (1999)
  • U.S. Department of Energy “Outstanding Performance Commendation” (2000)
  • NASA Service Awards (2002, 2003)
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory “Outstanding Engineer Award” (2001)
  • Upward Bound National TRIO Achiever Award (2001)
  • Eta Kappa Nu Electrical Engineering Honor Society member and awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from University of California at Santa Barbara (2006).

Engineering career

Hernández worked from 1987 to 2001 at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California.[8] While there, Hernández, along with a commercial colleague, developed the first full-field digital mammography imaging system.[9] This invention aids in the early detection of breast cancer.[9]

NASA career

In 2001, Hernández joined the Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas.

Hernández was selected by NASA as an astronaut candidate in May 2004. In February 2006 he completed Astronaut Candidate Training that included scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in Shuttle and International Space Station systems, physiological training, T-38 flight training, and water and wilderness survival training. On completing this initial training, Hernández was assigned to the Shuttle Branch to support Kennedy Space Center Operations in support of Shuttle launch and landing preparations.

In May 2007 Hernández served as an aquanaut during the NEEMO 12 mission aboard the Aquarius underwater laboratory, living and working underwater for eleven days.[10]

Hernández worked various technical assignments until his selection on July 15, 2008, as a mission specialist on 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 while tweeting.[11][12]

The STS-128 mission ended its 14 day journey on September 11, 2009 at Edwards Air Force Base, California at 5:53 pm PST.

Congressional campaign

Main article: United States House of Representatives elections in California, 2012 § District 10

Hernandez told the Stockton Record in the summer of 2009 that he would consider running against fellow Democrat Dennis Cardoza in his Stockton based district.[13]

Hernández announced at Pacific Union College on September 29, 2011 that at the urging of President Barack Obama he was considering a run for the U.S. House of Representatives and would announce his decision on October 11, 2011.[14] He announced his candidacy as promised on October 11 via Twitter[15] by linking to his campaign website.[16] Hernandez made his first public campaign appearance on January 14, 2012, at a Democratic Candidate Forum in Tracy at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites.

In March 2012, Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, a law firm with links to the California Republican Party, sued in Sacramento County Superior Court to block Hernandez from describing himself as an "astronaut/scientist/engineer" on the June ballot. The lawsuit stated that "astronaut is not a title one carries for life"; the election code requires the description be accurate for the previous calendar year.[17] "Allowing a candidate to use the profession of 'astronaut' when he hasn't served in that profession recently is akin to allowing someone to use a title of 'sailor' when they no longer own or operate a ship," said Jennifer Kerns, a California Republican Party spokeswoman. On March 29, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge ruled that Hernández may be described as an astronaut on the June 5 primary ballot.[18]

The payment of taxes were an issue for both Hernandez and his opponent. Denham criticized Hernandez for a tax lien of $10,813 imposed by the IRS in 2010 but only paid in 2012. In turn, Hernandez attacked Denham for two tax liens imposed against his business in 2003.[19]

Despite his deep California and Central Valley roots, an outside super pac group designed and ran television ads that attempted to paint him as a "fly in" candidate from Houston, Texas and made much of the tax lien issue.


Hernández has received the endorsement of Democracy for America, and was selected as one of the Dean Dozen they were supporting in 2012. In November of 2012, Hernandez lost to the incumbent, Congressman Jeff Denham, in the General Election for California's new 10th District. Hernandez finished in the polls with 46% of the vote.[20]


As of September 2012, most of Hernandez's campaign funds came from outside his district and many donations came from left-wing political action committees and public employee unions. Speaking of his fundraising Hernandez said, "there aren't any special interest groups that are going to come back and say I have to vote for something. I don't believe they're going to influence me in making decisions on what's best for my district." Hernandez said that he does not think organizations like teachers unions to be special interest groups.[21]

Political views


Speaking on the topic of illegal immigration Hernandez said, "Anytime you have a country that has 11 million undocumented workers, you've got to come to grips that the system is broken." Hernandez wants to find a way to allow illegal immigrants to become citizens. Specifically, he said, "I would want to see a path to legalization of people who have been living in this country a certain period of time...and have not gotten in trouble with the law (or) been a big burden to society in terms of social care." He feels that illegal immigrants should have to pay and back taxes in order to obtain legal status. Hernandez does not favor a guest worker program or a secure ID program.[21]


Hernandez supports California's Proposition 30, a ballot measure proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown to increase income taxes on those earning more than $250,000 and raise the sales tax rate by a quarter-cent for everyone. To balance the federal budget, Hernandez says there needs to be a combination of tax increases and budget cuts.[21]

Personal life

Hernández is married and has five children. For several years, his wife, Adela, ran a Mexican restaurant just outside the Johnson Space Center gates, called Tierra Luna Grill, which is Spanish for Earth Moon Grill.[12][22]

See also


External links

  • Twitter
  • Campaign website
  • Jose Hernandez Reaching For The Stars! Foundation
  • NASA biography of Hernández
  • Spacefacts biography of José Hernández

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