MORE HEROES & LEGENDS RECOGNIZING NASA’S HISPANIC ASTRONAUTS

NASA  Memorializes Its Past Greatness While Forging A New Space Frontier

Editor’s Note: Throughout 2016, Americans were consumed with the “soap opera” that was the presidential election. The intensity and drama of the contest crowded out most other news of the day – particularly in the area of science and technology, a major emphasis in higher education for the 21st century, as well as a field replete with Hispanic success stories. In one of the most underreported stories of the year NASA quietly expanded their frontier both on earth and in space with an astounding and successful unmanned mission to Jupiter as part of its Juno program. As scientists cheered and delighted in the stunning images transmitted back to Earth from a planet 365 million miles from its closest point, and 601 million miles away at its farthest, they also ended the year on a somber note. In December, the United States lost a true American hero when former astronaut John Glenn died at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. Here are stories that celebrate NASA’s illustrious past by way of their tribute to Glenn, one of their own, and by opening a museum to NASA’s history, as well as a NASA story that shines a bright light on the ambitious future they have envisioned for themselves

JOSEPH M. ACABA

Born in 1967 in Inglewood, Calif., and raised in Anaheim, Calif., Acaba, a former science teacher, was selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 2004 as part of the Educator Astronaut Program. Now a fully trained mission specialist, he conducted two spacewalks during the Space Shuttle’s STS-119 mission to the International Space Station. 

FERNANDO “FRANK” CALDEIRO

Born June 12, 1958, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Caldeiro considers New York City and Merritt Island, Fla., to be his hometowns. NASA selected Caldeiro as an astronaut in 1996. In 2002, he was appointed to serve in the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. 

FRANKLIN R. CHANG DÍAZ

Born in 1950 in San José, Costa Rica, Chang Díaz became the first Hispanic astronaut when NASA selected him in 1980. He is a veteran of seven space flights. He logged more than 1,500 hours in space, including 19 hours during spacewalks. 

SIDNEY M. GUTIERREZ

Born in 1951 in Albuquerque, N.M., NASA selected Gutierrez as an astronaut in 1984. He is a veteran of two space flights. He served as the pilot on STS-40 in 1991 and the commander on STS-59 in 1994. 

JOSÉ M. HERNÁNDEZ

Born August 7, 1962, in French Camp, Calif., Hernández considers Stockton, Calif., to be his hometown. In 2004, NASA selected Hernández as an astronaut. He had joined the Agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston as a materials research engineer in 2001. He served as a mission specialist in 2009. Hernández grew up as one of four children in a migrant farming family from Mexico. He learned to speak English when he was 12 years old.

MICHAEL E. LOPEZ-ALEGRIA

Born May 30, 1958, in Madrid, Spain, Lopez-Alegria grew up in Mission Viejo, Calif. NASA selected Lopez-Alegria as an astronaut in 1992. A veteran of four space flights, he has logged more than 257 days in space and performed 10 spacewalks totaling 67 hours and 40 minutes. 

CHRISTOPHER J. “GUS” LORIA

Born July 9, 1960, in Belmont, Mass., Loria considers League City, Texas, to be his hometown. NASA selected Loria as an astronaut in 1996. Loria retired from the astronaut corps in 2005.

CARLOS I. NORIEGA

Born October 8, 1959, in Lima, Peru, Noriega considers Santa Clara, Calif., to be his hometown. NASA selected Noriega as an astronaut in 1994. He is a veteran of two Space Shuttle missions. He has logged more than 481 hours in space, including more than 19 hours conducting spacewalks. Noriega retired from the astronaut corps in 2005. 

ELLEN OCHOA

Born in 1958 in Los Angeles, Calif., Ochoa considers La Mesa, Calif., to be her hometown. She was the first female Hispanic astronaut to fly in space. NASA selected Ochoa as an astronaut in 1990. She spent nearly 1,000 hours in space during four Shuttle missions.

JOHN D. “DANNY” OLIVAS

Born in 1966 in North Hollywood, Calif., Olivas was raised in El Paso, Texas. NASA selected Olivas as an astronaut in 1998. In 2007, he flew on the STS-117 Shuttle mission and conducted two spacewalks. Olivas conducted the first-ever on-orbit repair of a Shuttle during a spacewalk. 

GEORGE D. ZAMKA

Born in 1962 in Jersey City, N.J., Zamka was raised in New York City; Irvington, N.Y.; Medellín, Colombia; and Rochester Hills, Mich. NASA selected Zamka as an astronaut in 1998. In 2007, he served as the pilot on the Shuttle’s STS-120 mission to the International Space Station, his first space flight. As a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, Zamka flew 66 combat missions over occupied Kuwait and Iraq during Desert Storm.