“When I was five, I was on the porch reading a book when my dad called me in the house and said, ‘I want you to see this, this is Apollo 13. These astronauts are not only not going to make it to the Moon, they may not even make it home.’
“And I was just mesmerized by that and it scared me to the point where I thought, ‘I don’t want to be an astronaut — but I would love to work for the agency.’ I wanted to be Gene Kranz, the flight director. I got really good grades in school. I was in the mentally gifted minor’s program.
“And that all came crashing down, eight days before my 13th birthday, when my father passed away on Christmas Day, literally in our living room. After that, my mom went into a spiral of depression and I really didn’t see her for a couple of years. I got arrested a couple times. I was racially profiled by the police. I was pulled over probably five or six times a week. I had to stop driving at some point. It ruined my high school career. I was labeled a troublemaker. Teachers wouldn’t help me. My career counselor said I would do amazing work at a car wash and that’s what I should consider doing and not to continue my education.
“But I didn’t listen.
“And now, I’m actually working for NASA. Everything came full circle in 2006 when I was doing an event at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and who’s there, but Gene Kranz and Fred Haise, one of the astronauts from Apollo 13. So I got to meet them. They signed their books for me, I got to take pictures with them and tell them that they were the reason that I’m working for this agency now.”
— Edward Gonzales, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Lead, Goddard Space Flight Center
Image Credit: NASA / Taylor Mickal
Interviewer: NASA / Thalia Patrinos