Oakland Raiders Director of Multicultural Initiatives, Elena Valenzuela, visited the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., for the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery as Bay-Area native Jose Hernandez prepared to travel to the International Space Station. Hernandez planned to take a Raiders flag on his journey.
When I had the invitation in my hands several months ago from Jose Hernandez and the crew of STS-128 to attend the launch of their upcoming space mission, I could have never imagined how that invitation was going to affect the Raider Nation. Throughout the years, I have spoken to fans from all around the world but it was at that moment, when all details were finalized about Jose taking a Raider flag to space because of his love of the team, that I came to see how the Raiders were going to be represented not only on Earth but in the Universe.
The trip to the East Coast went by fast and I am sure it felt fast because of the excitement I was feeling. Once in Florida, I familiarized myself with the area of Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral to be ready for the activities of the launch day. I was looking forward to seeing Diana, a member of The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and the creative mind behind the relationship between Jose and the Raiders, at the reception SHPE prepared for Jose's family and friends. The moment I arrived at the reception I saw the passion that Jose has for life through the attendees of the event, his friends and family, and from the music that was playing in the background from a Mariachi band especially requested by him. That passion is directly correlated to what made him start following the Oakland Raiders back in Stockton when he was working the fields with a dream in mind.
Much love and admiration was palpable at the reception. I spoke to Jose's parents, children and his wife Adelita about his Commitment to Excellence and dedication to an outstanding professional career. Adelita mentioned how Jose has felt inspired by "his team" to pursue his dreams.
Representatives from the Mexican government and from the various institutions Jose has attended for his education, wished the crew of astronauts the best of luck and expressed how proud they are of this accomplishment.
When it was time to head to the Kennedy Space Center, one could feel the excitement in the room and see it in people's faces. The visitor's complex welcomes people with NASA regalia everywhere from historical modules of space mission history to simulators and photo opportunities with astronauts. The NASA buses were in charge of taking the spectators to the viewing area at the Banana River and once I took my seat at the site I couldn't believe my eyes, the space vehicle was right there, five miles away and with a Raider flag in Jose's possession to be taken out to the galaxy!
After waiting expectedly many hours for the space mission to take off and listening to the narrator explain the intricate process of getting the rocket ready, it was announced past 1:00 in the morning that due to weather conditions the launch will be postponed until the next day.
Safety is first and I know for a fact that Jose is eagerly awaiting for launch time. His family, friends, coworkers and fellow Raider fans are sending support via prayers, thoughts and good wishes. He is making the Raider Nation and the Hispanic community proud and I personally can't wait to see his dream come true to make his way outer space when the rocket is ready to take off. Unfortunately, the launch has been delayed again.
Editor's note: NASA launched Discovery on Friday, August 28.