José Hernandez: Biography at a Glance

  • Former migrant farmworker turned NASA astronaut, served as flight engineer aboard Space Shuttle Discovery on mission STS-128 to the International Space Station
  • Former Legislative Analyst at NASA Headquarters
  • Founder, current consultant for Tierra Luna Engineering
  • Ran for U.S. Congress in 2012, plans to run for office in the near future
  • Received two NASA Service Awards and seven honorary degrees, among other honors
Former NASA Astronaut

José Hernandez, who grew up as a migrant farmworker in California, was selected by NASA as a member of their 19th class of astronauts in 2004.

In 2009, José served as the flight engineer on mission STS-128 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery to the International Space Station. In addition to his flight engineer duties, José was one of two principal robotic arm operators and became the first person to tweet in Spanish from space. José is currently an engineering consultant and politician who has plans to run for office in the near future.

After his 2009 space mission, José was assigned to work at NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C. where he served as a Legislative Analyst, developing federal space policy, planning NASA’s annual budget package, and acting as liaison with key Congressional members. He also worked on a strategy to promoted the President’s new vision on space exploration.

Currently, José works as a consultant for Tierra Luna Engineering, which he founded in 2012. He uses his expertise in engineering, business development, and strategic operations to help clients develop integrated approaches to complex problems and achieve optimum growth. He focuses his efforts on companies involved in such areas as aerospace technology and renewable energy.

José is a former candidate for U.S. Congress, with plans to run for office again soon. He is the author of several books, including his autobiography "Reaching for the Stars" and the children’s version "The Boy Who Touched the Stars."

José has been the recipient of numerous awards including two NASA Service Awards (2002, 2003), the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory “Outstanding Engineer Award” (2001), Upward Bound National TRIO Achiever Award (2001), U.S. Department of Energy “Outstanding Performance Commendation” (2000), Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists “Medalla de Oro” recipient for professional and community contributions (1999), and Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Award for “Outstanding Technical Contribution” (1995). José has also been awarded seven honorary doctorate degrees including from his alma mater, University of the Pacific.

Prior to becoming an astronaut, José worked at NASA as the Branch Chief of the Materials and Processes Branch at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. There he oversaw the branch’s activities in the areas of materials and processes, fracture control, nondestructive evaluation, failure analysis, and Nano materials research. His branch was also instrumental in participating in the investigation to help find the root cause of the Space Shuttle Columbia accident and reporting those results to the President’s Columbia Accident Investigation Board.

Before this, José spent over 15 years at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where he worked on the development of a space deployed X-Ray laser as part of the Strategic Defense Initiative. He then went on to co-develop the first full-field digital mammography system for the earlier detection of breast cancer thus opening a new area of research called computer-aided diagnosis and was recognized by both the U.S. Department of Energy for this important contribution.

José was also the Deputy Program Manager of the Highly Enriched Uranium Implementation program where his team was in charge of implementing a signed bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Russian Federation for the U.S. purchase of uranium materials from the dismantled Russian nuclear weapons. José was invited to the Department of Energy Headquarters in Washington D.C. to serve as the Laboratory’s Program Manager in the Office of International Material Protection and Cooperation. There, José assisted in planning, directing, and implementing U.S. cooperation with the Russian Federation in the Nuclear Materials, Protection, Control and Accounting Program. José developed and implemented policies, strategies, and plans to enhance U.S. national security and reduce threat of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism.

“José was absolutely FANTASTIC!One student shared that she “teared up” hearing Jose’s story about seeing the earth from space. And he inspired hundreds othersat the main event.”

Texas State University

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