BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Hundreds of future scientists received some inspiration Tuesday morning in Bakersfield.
Former Astronaut Jose Hernandez provided some words of inspiration to open the 25th Annual Kern County Science Fair this morning at Rabobank Convention Center.
He talked to the more than 600 students from 4th through 12th grade about following their dreams and reaching for the stars.
But when it came to his own science projects, Hernandez was a little fuzzy.
Hernandez was born and raised in the San Joaquin Valley before becoming a NASA astronaut.
He was nine-years-old when he decided to become an astronaut.
"I was watching the very last Apollo Mission, Apollo 17, on our old black and white TV and when I saw Gene Surnon walk on the moon, I was hook," said Hernandez. "I said that's what I want to be."
As a child working in the fields among other migrant workers, he would daydream of being an astronaut.
"My favorite part about going to the fields was going early in the morning when it was still dark..and looking at the stars away from the light pollution from the city," said Hernandez. "And you would see the stars so clear like in 3D fashion."
He said he used his dad's five ingredient recipe for success.
"He basically said identify what you want to be in life," said Hernandez. "Recognize how far you are, draw yourself a road map and take no shortcuts. Get a good education and develop a good work ethic. Mix that together and you can be whatever you want to be."
With that, he took his dream and knocked it right out of this world. After years of perseverance, education, and eleven rejections from NASA, in 2004, he became a NASA astronaut. And in 2008, boarded the Space Shuttle Discovery as the flight engineer and headed to the International Space Station. He landed at Edwards Air Force Base on Sept. 11, 2009. He spent ten years with NASA. Now he travels the world promoting science technology engineering and math education and telling his story to inspire others.
His message to kids in the San Joaquin Valley?
"Hey, I grew up and was born and raised here in the valley. Grew up as a migrant farmworker," said Hernandez. "If I'm able to reach my dream despite my humble beginnings, they can also reach their own stars."