Jesse Hernandez

Logistics Engineer

Where are you from?

I was born in East Los Angeles. Now I live in the San Fernando Valley.

Describe the first time you made a personal connection with outer space.

I'd have to say when the first space shuttle Columbia launched, since most of it was done here in Palmdale. That got me looking at space because it was something that no one had ever accomplished before. There's nothing like it.

How did you end up working in the space program?

My background has been in logistics and transportation, and I've done a lot of warehousing work. One day I had a friend tell me there was an opening at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the shipping and receiving department. Everybody knows JPL, and people were telling me, "People wait years to work there!" I applied and got the job.

Who inspired you?

I would have to say my grandfather. He wasn't very educated, but he was smart and knew a lot of things. He never took anything for granted. One thing he instilled in me was working hard. He always made it a point that whatever you do, you work your hardest at it. You always do your best.

What does your job entail?

My job is making sure that whatever projects need, logistically, that we get those requirements completed for them. On the receiving side, we process items each day that are required for JPL missions and the institution overall.

And on the shipping side, we handle all the outbound shipments, whether it's one box or dozens of trucks with specialized carriers. For example, for (a Mars rover mission), it took 25 trucks and three phases to transport everything to Florida for launch. It required us doing everything from setting up highway patrol escorts to coordinating all the trucks needed. We also used four C-17 cargo planes from the Air Force.

Jesse Hernandez
Jesse Hernandez in front of the C-17 cargo plane used for transporting Mars rovers to NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

Tell us about a favorite moment so far in your career.

My favorite moment was when our shipping department was given the responsibility of transporting two Mars rovers to NASA Kennedy Space Center for Launch. With my logistical and over-the-road experience, along with the Department of Defense experience of my supervisor, we were able to implement a best business practice for the shipping department. That was my first project, so that's the one that I really enjoyed the most.

What are you looking forward to in your career?

I'm looking forward to hopefully getting the opportunity to be part of the next projects that will lead us toward getting people on Mars. I'm hoping to get that chance.

What advice would you give someone who wants to take the same career path as you?

Never turn down opportunities to learn new things. Always keep an open mind when someone gives you constructive criticism.

What do you do for fun?

I spend most of my time with my wife, kids and family. We go to the beach and the movies. My kids are always wanting to go roller skating and ice skating, too.

Where are they from?

Planetary science is a global profession.