Astronaut José Hernández
NASA engineer José Hernández wanted to fly in space ever since he heard that 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 Hernández, who was a senior in high school at the time.
"I was already interested in science and engineering," Hernández 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."
And now that hard work is paying off. He has been chosen to begin training as a mission specialist as part of the 2004 astronaut candidate class.
One of four children in a migrant farming family from Mexico, Hernández -- 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," Hernández laughs, "but we had to work. It wasn't a vacation."
After graduating high school in Stockton, Hernández enrolled at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, where he earned a degree in electrical engineering. He 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, he accepted a full-time job with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he had worked as a co-op in college.
While at Lawrence Livermore, Hernández worked on signal and image processing applications in radar imaging, computed tomography and acoustic imaging. Later in his career, Hernández worked on developing quantitative X-ray film imaging analysis techniques for the X-ray laser program. Hernández applied these techniques in the medical physics arena and co-developed the first full-field digital mammography imaging system. This system has proven useful for detecting breast cancer at an earlier stage than other film/screen mammography techniques. Hernández has won recognition awards for his work on this project. He also has worked in the international arena where he represented Lawrence Livermore and the U.S. Department of Energy on Russian nuclear non-proliferation issues.
During the astronaut application process, Hernández 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," Hernández 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."
Hernández smiles. "Now it's my turn!"
2006 Honorary Doctorate -- University of the Pacific
2004 NASA Astronaut -- Space Shuttle Program
1986 U.C. Santa Barbara Graduate, Master of Science -- Electrical and Computer Engineering
1984 University of the Pacific Graduate, Bachelor of Science -- Engineering
1980 Franklin High School Graduate
Original Article: http://astrojh.com/about.html