Article By Holyn Hedrick

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On Friday, March 19th 2021, former NASA astronaut and engineer José Hernández joined Davie County Schools in a ZOOM meeting organized by Davie High math teacher, Mr. Robinson. The event was made possible through a nascent partnership between Davie High School and MAES – Latinos in Science and Engineering. 

During the forty-minute Zoom call held during Smart Block, Hernández discussed the various decisions made in his life that influenced his path to NASA and eventually a mission to the International Space Station. Hernández began his talk by discussing his childhood and the moments that influenced him in his early life. Hernández came from a family of farmworkers and worked alongside them as they traveled. 

Despite not knowing how to speak English until he was twelve years old, Hernández was still able to graduate from Franklin High School in Stockton, California. There he earned his Bachelors of Science from the University of the Pacific in 1984, before earning his Masters in electrical and computer engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara two years later.

He explained that he first wanted to become an astronaut when he saw Gene Cernan from the Apollo 17 mission complete a spacewalk. Hernández spoke to his father about his dreams, and his father sat him down and gave him the recipe for success:

  1. Define what you want to be
  2. Recognize how far from your dream you are and how much farther you have to go 
  3. Draw a road map from where you are to where you want to be
  4. Prioritize your education
  5. Put effort into your job

Hernández later added that a sixth ingredient would be perseverance. 

Hernández began his career at NASA in 2001, though he was turned down for astronaut training eleven times before finally being selected in May 2004.

He continued by speaking about what his job entailed and then concluded the meeting by answering a few questions from both students and staff, including one that was particularly personal from Mr. Robinson.

“I just have to ask,” Mr. Robinson said as the meeting concluded, “How do you go to the bathroom in space?”

“Very carefully,” Hernández responded in between laughs. To elaborate, he added that part of NASA’s process for going into space is figuring out how to minimize the weight of every item that has to travel off the surface, including toilets.

In the words of Hernández, “You better have good aim.”

Hernández will have a movie out on Netflix sometime in 2022.