José Hernández, MS EE '86: Asteroid Named after the Astronaut

New names honor African American, Hispanic and Native American astronauts, and one cosmonaut to inspire the next generation.

photo of astronaut Hernández working controls on space shuttle Discovery

Your name up in the sky and among the stars. Sounds like something out of a glamorous Hollywood movie, but it's a reality for 27 space explorers.

Marc W. Buie, an astronomer who discovered the 27 asteroids, told NASA it was "an honor and a privilege to name these asteroids in recognition of fellow space explorers while also adding to the message of the power and value of diversity for all human endeavors."

Before, these asteroids were originally named in relation to their position in space, but now José Hernández gets to look up knowing that his asteroid, (122554) Joséhernández, is in orbit.

Hernández was part of a migrant farming family and spent his childhood working in the fields. By the time he was in high school, Hernández knew he wanted to be an astronaut, inspired by the work of Franklin Chang-Díaz, the namesake of another of these asteroids, (115015) Chang Díaz. Hernández then went on to get two degrees in electrical engineering which he used to develop the first full-field digital mammography imaging system.

CNN – "Asteroids named after African American, Hispanic and Native American astronauts" (full article)

Hernández, who grew up working in the fields with his parents, earned a master’s degree in ECE from UCSB. He went on to serve as a flight engineer for a NASA mission to the International Space Station in 2009. He is also the subject of a Netflix original movie set to being filming this summer.