Jose M. Hernandez – Former NASA Astronaut
2013 Keynote Speaker Speaker ~ American River College
NASA engineer Jose M. Hernandez wanted to fly in space in ever since he heard that the first Hispanic-American had been chose to travel into space. “I was hoeing a row of sugar beets in a field near Stockton, California, and I heard on my transistor radio that Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz had been selected for the Astronaut Corps,” says Hernandez, 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 striving for each day since then.” And now that hard work is paying off. He was selected to begin training in 2004 as part of the 19th class of astronauts as a mission specialist.
One of four children in a migrant farming family from México, Hernandez—who didn’t learn English until he was 12 years old—spent much of his childhood on what he call “the California circuit,” traveling with his family from México to Southern California each March, then working northward to Stockton area by November, picking strawberries and cucumbers at farms along the route. Then they would return to México for Christmas, and start the cycle all over again come spring.
After graduating Franklin High School in Stockton, Hernandez enrolled in the University of the Pacific in Stockton, where he earned a Bachelors in Science 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 and earned his Masters of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering.