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Astronaut Candidates 2004: | Home
Behind the ScenesAstronaut Candidate Class of 2004 Behind the ScenesTrainingSonny Carter Training Facility
Jose Hernandez
IMAGE: Astronaut Candidate Jose Hernandez
2004 Astronaut Candidate Jose Hernandez is an electrical engineer at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Astronaut Candidate Interview:
Jose Hernandez

Q: Jose Hernandez, mission specialist candidate. Congratulations. Tell me what it was like for you to get the news that you'd been picked to start training as an astronaut.

A: Well, I would imagine it was much like winning the lottery, that feeling one would get if they won the lottery. And let me tell you why. About 3,000 applications are submitted for these positions. Ninety-nine of us got interviewed. And if the rest of the 79 are anything like these 19 I interviewed with, I think they all deserve to be selected. And so, I felt very lucky to have been among the 11 chosen.

It's quite often that the story of how someone became an astronaut tells a lot about the dedication and the hard work that went into that. Your story begins in California back in the 1960s as a member of a family of migrant farm workers from Mexico. Tell me where you find the inspiration that led you here. And tell me what some of the stops were along the way.

I think the inspiration was my parents. Even though they only had a third-grade elementary school education, they instilled this expectation that we would go to college and we would graduate. I think the teachers took me to the next level in the sense that saying, "Hey, it's not just enough to graduate high school and get your college education. You can reach for the stars as well." And it wasn't until I was in high school and working in the summer on the farms that I heard that Franklin Chang-Diaz got selected. He sort of became my inspiration and laid the roadwork for me to embark upon my journey of trying to get selected.

You know NASA has a real important role in supporting and promoting education too. What do you want to tell young people about the important role that education plays in the challenging work that is space flight, as well the challenge of becoming an astronaut?

First of all, I would say that education is very important in the sense that you ought to set your goals. And of course, to achieve those goals, especially if you want to go into engineering or science or any other career, you need to continue your education and do very well in school early on. As you move forward and achieve your goals, you're going to see that they get easier the more education you get in terms of achieving those goals.

Jose, you and your astronaut classmates should be on the missions that are going to bring the vision for space exploration alive. You're going to go to the moon. And you are going to go to Mars. What's your philosophy about the future of humankind moving out into the cosmos and the role that you get to play in that?

I think it's in our nature to be explorers. I think that it's only a natural step in a sense that we've already established the International Space Station. And the next natural step is to start journeying beyond the Space Station. We'll use the moon as an outpost and go to Mars and hopefully beyond. So, we're very excited.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 07/15/2005
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