Friday, July 27, 2012

Meet our Teamster astronaut (and congressional candidate)

We thought you'd be interested in learning more about Jose Hernandez, former member of Teamsters Local 601, astronaut and now a candidate for Congress in California. He just spoke at the Teamsters National Hispanic Conference in Los Angeles.

This is a guy who spent part of his childhood picking cucumbers. It was the good wages he earned working in a cannery as a Teamster that helped him pay for his education.

In the early stages of his campaign, the opposing party (Republican) made a flap over his claim to be an astronaut. As the blogger Kos pointed out, it was just too inspirational. Here's what they tried to do:

In a pointed new challenge, a Sacramento law firm is asking a judge to block Hernandez from describing himself as an "astronaut/scientist/engineer" on the June ballot. The lawsuit notes Hernandez has left NASA. 
"Hernandez's attempted use of 'astronaut' violates the Election Code's unambiguous requirement that a candidate's ballot designation reflect one's current profession, vocation, or one held during the previous calendar year," the lawsuit states.
His story is truly inspirational. Wrote blogger Senor Unoball recently,
At 10, Hernandez said, came the event that would change his life: The Apollo 17 moon mission. Hernandez said he was enthralled watching coverage of the mission on the small black-and-white TV they owned.
And, after watching the astronauts, Hernandez' father did not laugh at him when the youngster said that he would like to become an astronaut. His father sat him down and gave Hernandez some fatherly guidance: Make a plan; be determined; above all be as dedicated to his education as he was to his fieldwork.
Those lessons took hold, and Hernandez, who did not learn English until he was 12, received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1984, and a master's degree in electrical and computer engineering in 1986 from UC Santa Barbara.
He took a job at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he helped develop digital mammography tools that are now helping diagnose breast cancer. Hernandez said those tools came about due to some imaging experiments he was working on, but that the program funding the experiments got cancelled. However, he said, he and a partner had a wealth of information so they set out to figure out how best to apply the technology, and the imaging tools they developed were perfect for mammography.
That mammography technology is his proudest achievement, he said, because it's directly saving women's lives.
Kos concludes it's a tough battle, but one he can win. Find out more here.