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Arte Público Press Author Interview: José M. Hernández

Author José M. Hernández, a child of Latino migrant farmworkers, talks about pursuing his dream of becoming a NASA astronaut.

The Boy Who Touched the Stars by José M. Hernández
The Boy Who Touched the Stars by José M. Hernández


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In his new bilingual picture book The Boy Who Touched the Stars / El niño que alcanzó las estrellas, author José M. Hernández tells his own story of being the child of migrant farmworkers and achieving his dream of becoming an astronaut.

As a child, Hernández spent his days harvesting fruits and vegetables in central California, and his nights looking to the sky for inspiration. He dreamed of perhaps one day breaking the bounds of Earth and visiting the moon and stars. Hernández’s 2nd-grade teacher convinced his parents to remain in the United States and allow Hernández and his siblings to concentrate on getting their education.

In 1972, Hernández and his family watched on a small black and white television as astronaut Eugene Cernan walked on the moon during the Apollo 17 mission. Several years later, Hernández read about Dr. Franklin Chang-Díaz, the first Latin American immigrant chosen by NASA to travel into space. Each of these experiences solidified Hernández’s goal of becoming an astronaut.

José M. Hernández, Author of The Boy Who Touched the Stars
José M. Hernández, Author of The Boy Who Touched the Stars

Although the work was challenging, Hernández attended the University of the Pacific and graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering. During his years working as a research scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Hernández applied (and was rejected) 11 times for a position as a NASA astronaut. Finally, in 2004 Hernández was selected to be part of the 19th class of NASA astronauts. In 2009, he served as Flight Engineer on the STS-128 Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station.

Listen to the full interview with Houston Public Media's Eric Ladau and José M. Hernández in the audio above.

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