Hernandez, an electrical engineer at the Lab for 15 years before taking a leave of absence to join NASA, had interviewed as a potential astronaut candidate two times before getting the nod. NASA officials were so impressed with his interview three years ago that he was asked to join the staff as an engineer.
Hernandez has served as branch chief of the Materials and Processes Branch at NASA since 2001.
"This was the ultimate goal," Hernandez said of his astronaut selection. "I am very excited and very honored to be selected. I can't wait to begin my training."
Hernandez’ class is expected to be at the forefront of President Bush's recent call for expanded space exploration, which includes trips back to the moon and eventual manned flights to Mars.
Hernandez, who will train as a mission specialist, says his astronaut class will start with utilization and training of a new launch vehicle and possible exploration to the moon. There is also the possibility of a shuttle mission or assignment aboard the international space station.
"Any ticket they give me into space I am going to take," he said. "This is something I've wanted since I was a kid."
Hernandez marks the fourth astronaut affiliated with the Lab. Leroy Chiao worked as a chemical engineer before joining NASA and former astronauts Tammy Jernigan and Jeff Wisoff served with NASA before coming to the Lab. Jernigan is currently the principal deputy associate director of Physics and Advanced Technologies and Wisoff works in the NIF Program.
"Congratulations to Jose on achieving what has been a lifelong goal," said Steve Patterson, Lab Associate Director for Engineering. "Throughout his career Jose has distinguished himself though his professionalism and dedication. We wish him the best as he embarks on this next chapter of his career."
Hernandez will begin his training on June 14 at the NASA Space Center. From there he goes on to Pensacola, Fla., for training in water survival, followed by flight training. Hernandez says he is looking forward to spending some time in a supersonic T-38 as well as the famed KC-135, aka "the vomit comet," which astronauts in training use to achieve zero G as the flight moves along its parabolic curves.
Hernandez joined the Lab in 1986 and has worked on digital mammography, the X-ray Laser Program, and the Materials Protection, Control and Accountability Program.
"The Lab had a big impact on how I turned out as a person and an engineer,' Hernandez said. "It helped me reach my ultimate goal."
Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a national security laboratory, with a mission to ensure national security and apply science and technology to the important issues of our time. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.