You may have heard the inspiring story of Jose Hernandez, who grew up a migrant worker in San Joaquin County, didn't learn English until he was 12, and is now a NASA astronaut preparing to blast off in the Space Shuttle Discovery currently scheduled to launch at about 10 p.m. Pacific Time Tuesday night.
What you may not have heard that the guy is a lifelong, die-hard Oakland Raiders fan. And he's taking a Raider flag with him to plant on the International Space Station, 220 miles above the face of the earth, so the silver & black may be represented in the final frontier.
Darth Vader couldn't be more pleased.
The Raider organization is also pretty stoked. "We wish Astronaut Hernandez, the entire crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery and NASA all the very best with the upcoming 30th US Mission to the International Space Station," Raiders CEO Amy Trask told Raiders.com. "The Raider Nation is now represented not only across the globe, but throughout the galaxy."
When Hernandez returns, the Raiders are planning him a nice "welcome home" bash prior to the Broncos game on September 27 at the Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers will honor Hernandez for his role in the Latino community and for doing the whole thing with putting a Raider flag up in outer space, as part of the Raiders' annual Fiesta Latina to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.
Hernandez' trip to outer space results from his own lifelong commitment to excellence. "It took me 12 years," Hernandez told ABC 7, describing the astronaut application process, "Because I applied for 12 years, so there's an element of perseverance, and improving your situation each time you apply to improve and grow career wise so that you become a better candidate for NASA, and lucky enough, after 12 years of perseverance, I did get selected."
Hernandez, who worked at the Lawrence Livermore Lab and lived in Stockton for 12 years, now lives in the Houston area. His wife runs a Mexican restaurant, and they have five children whom they are raising properly in a Raider household.
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who wishes we could leave LaDainian Tomlinson up at the International Space Station.