Once upon a time, all astronauts were male WASP test pilots. That is no longer true. Now astronauts are men and women, scientists as well as pilots. Engineer Dr. José Hernández was rejected by NASA eleven times. Believing in the value of persistence, he applied again and was accepted the twelfth time.
With millions of children having trouble with remote learning during the Pandemic Lockdown, Dr. Hernandez wants to help children understand the value of persistance in learning or any endeavor. (Dr. Seuss’ first book, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street was rejected twenty-seven times before it was published in 1937 and the award-winning book remained in print until 2021.)
He was born in French Camp, California, USA. He now makes his home in Stockton, CA. Now retired from NASA, he ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2012.
The child of Mexican-American migrant farm laborers, as a boy Hernandez spent one quarter of the year in Mexico, and three-quarters in the USA. “We spent nine months in California, three months in Mexico, but those nine months I went to three different school districts,” he explained. He did not learn to speak English until he was twelve years old. However, STEM subjects spoke to him. “I gravitated towards math because 1 + 3 is 4 in any language,” Hernandez said.
When he was ten, he told his father he wanted to be an astronaut. Instead of telling him a field hand couldn’t be an astronaut, his father helped him lay out a five point recipe for success.
- Set a goal.
- Recognize how far away you are from that goal.
- draw yourself a road map to know where you’re at to where you want to go
- hard work
Hernandez is no stranger to hard work, neither in the fields of California’s Central Valley nor on the International Space Station. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of the Pacific in 1984, then 1986, a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from UCSB in 2006.
As an astronaut, he was part of the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery in 2009. He also worked on the I.S.S. He spent 13 days, 20 hours, and 54 minutes in space and 11 days underwater as an aquanaut aboard the Aquarius underwater laboratory. He also helped develop a digital mammography imaging system to help detect breast cancer.
Though Hernandez has circled the globe 217 times in space, he remains a-down-to-Earth man who tells young people how to realize their own dreams. “Hard work and perseverance and not being afraid to dream big,” he said.
Netflix will be making the film about Hernandez’s life and career in 2022. By then, we hope the Pandemic will be over and schools will be back to normal. However, any time is a good time to inspire students.
Netflix has not yet announced any casting decisions for the Jose Hernandez biopic. Whom would you like to see as the intrepid engineer and astronaut? Edward James Olmos? Luis Guzman? Jimmy Smits? Perhaps Hernandez could change gears and become an actor. With Hernandez, it appears that the sky may not be the limit.
Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as 26 short stories, mostly fantasy in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, Swords &Sorceries Vols. 1, 2, & 5, “Cat Tails” “Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions, Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.