They Also Soar …

Jose Hernandez

Jose Hernandez

My waiter is in space.

Now, there’s a sentence that I wouldn’t have anticipated writing a few years ago. But, there you go — the space shuttle Discovery is in orbit right now, docked with the International Space Station. And among the crew of Discovery’s STS-128 mission is astronaut Jose Hernandez.

As the child of migrant farm workers, Hernandez has an interesting story. But, for me, the coolest part of Jose (aka @Astro_Jose on Twitter) being in space now stems from my last encounter with him, not quite a couple of years ago.

Some coworkers and I were in Houston for an education conference and to meet with some officials at JSC, and asked some of our local contacts about good places to eat. Someone recommended Tierra Luna, which is owned by Hernandez and his family.

We knew about his ownership, then, before we went there, but, even so, were a bit taken off-guard when we got there. Sure enough, the guy that bussed our table was … well, I had to pull out my iPhone to make sure. (“Is that him?” “Surely that’s not him.” “That is him!”) We had an astronaut clean our table, take our order, bring our food. He was very — and I use this term too often in talking about astronauts, ironically — down-to-Earth; you would never have guessed that he was anything other than a member of the restaurant staff. When we acknowledged that we knew who he was, however, he was glad to talk to us about his “day job,” as well.

Hernandez was a really neat guy, and I’m very happy for him finally getting his trip into orbit. But, yeah, it’s also very cool to be able to know that right now, my waiter is in space.

STS-128 also has another bit of personal connection for me — this is the first flight of Discovery since I attended the launch of the STS-125 Hubble mission back in May, which means that I saw her being prepared for this mission when I visited the Orbiter Processing Facility then. It was neat to see the view of the underbelly of Discovery during launch as the External Tank separated, and remember seeing those same tiles up close earlier this year.

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