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Latino All Stars

José Moreno Hernández

  • Gender: Male
  • University: University of California - Santa Barbara
  • Undergraduate Degree: Electrical Engineering
  • Graduate Degree: Engineering
  • Hometown: Stockton
  • State: California
  • Organization: Pt Strategies, LLC; Tierra Luna Engineering, LLC
  • Position Title: Former NASA Astronaut, President and CEO

Jose was born in French Camp, California, the youngest of four children in a family of migrant farm workers from Mexico. He spent his childhood traveling between Michoacán, Mexico, and Southern California, where the adults and children worked in the fields. They ultimately settled in Stockton, California.

 

During a single school year, he and his siblings sometimes missed school for months at a time, and attended classes in three or four different districts. He didn’t learn English until he was 12, but found refuge in math and science.  

 

He had wanted to be an astronaut from the age of ten, when he watched the astronauts of Apollo 17 take the last walk on the moon. Sometime later, while working in the sugar beet fields near Stockton, as a high school senior, he heard the news on the radio that NASA had selected Franklin Chang-Diaz, a Costa Rican native, to be an astronaut.

 

“I was already interested in science and engineering,” he recalled in a NASA interview. “But that was the moment I said, ‘I want to fly in space.’”

 

He earned a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of the Pacific, and then a master’s degree in Electrical from the University of California, Santa Barbara, graduating from both, cum laude. After college, he joined Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he worked for more than a decade on projects that included helping to develop the first full-field digital mammography imaging system and running a project designed to ensure Russia’s compliance with a bilateral nuclear disarmament agreement with the US. In 2001, the laboratory honored him with its “Outstanding Engineer” award.

 

He then joined NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, and a year later became its Materials and Processes Branch Chief. Despite his professional achievements, he refused to let go of his dream of becoming an astronaut. He applied and was rejected 11 years in a row. But he persisted, and on his twelfth try, he was accepted into the program.

 

He flew into space as the flight engineer aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 2009, and became the first person to tweet in Spanish from space—“Espero la cosecha de mi sueño sirva como inspiracion a todos! (I hope the harvest of my dream serves as inspiration to all!)”

 

Today, he is the President and CEO of the two consulting firms he founded, Pt Strategies, LLC and Tierra Luna Engineering, LLC. He also founded the Jose M. Hernández Reaching for the Stars Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships and educates students about careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

 

In an interview with NASA, he had this to say about success: “You have to prepare yourself. You have to study and get a good education. You have to have a good work ethic, and you have to have the support of your family. I think you put all those things together, then you can really achieve or reach any dream.”