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Orange Coast College Planetarium set to host former astronaut José Hernández

Former NASA Astronaut José Hernández will visit Orange Coast College on Thursday, March 7 to give a presentation titled “An Astronaut’s Journey to the Stars.”

A presentation for OCC students and employees will take place at 2 p.m. at the OCC Planetarium, and a larger group presentation that will be open to the community will take place at OCC’s Forum at 6:30 p.m.

Hernández was born the son of Mexican migrant farm workers who traveled and worked throughout Southern and Northern California for much of his childhood. After learning English at the age of 12, he eventually graduated from high school in Stockton, Calif., and later earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from University of Pacific and a master’s degree in engineering from UC Santa Barbara.

For nearly 25 years, Hernández worked for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where he developed the first full-field digital mammography imaging system, which aids in the early detection of breast cancer. After applying, and being rejected, for NASA’s astronaut training 11 times, Hernández was selected in May 2004, and served as a mission specialist on the STS-128 mission, which launched in August 2009.

Hernández also has the distinction of being the first person to use the Spanish language in space while tweeting. In 2012 Hernández lost a close congressional race to former Rep. Jeff Denham in California’s 10th congressional district, and he has not ruled out the possibility of running for office again in the future.

“When OCC received the recent Title V HSI STEM grant last fall, I immediately realized that we had an opportunity for our campus community to hear Dr. Hernandez’s inspirational message that nobody should ever, ever, EVER give up. No matter what the odds are. If you have a dream, you can make it happen if you just try,” says Coast Geology Department Chair Erik Bender.

Bender, who also serves as the project director for the College’s Department of Education Title V HSI STEM grant, points to OCC’s student demographics as one reason why Hernández’s story is an important one to share on campus.

“This is truly of story of extraordinary perseverance. We want all students, and in particular Latinx, to realize that they can pursue careers in the sciences, technology, engineering and math because sometimes the content of those areas seem a bit too scary and overwhelming to students and maybe out of their reach,” he says. “I think that Dr. Hernández will be the perfect example of how things many not be easy, but if you persevere set a goal and follow it, you can accomplish what you set out to do.”

This article was released by Orange Coast College.