Jose Hernandez, Astronaut Who Sparked Immigration Controversy, Retires from NASA

NASA astronauts are not really known for stirring up much controversy beyond the occasional complaints about budget cuts (not counting the random diaper rampage, of course), but Jose Hernandez didn't fit that stereotype.

Hernandez pissed off some critics when he called for legalizing all undocumented workers in the United States. Was NASA happy? Let's just say the astronaut guidebook does not include any sections on "Go ahead and address any hot-button political issues you like."

In a TV interview last year in Mexico, where he's a big star, the native Californian said, "I work for the U.S. government, but as an individual I have a right to my personal opinions. Having 12 million undocumented people here means there's something wrong with the system, and the system needs to be fixed."

NASA won't have Hernandez to worry about anymore. This afternoon he announced his retirement.

"Jose's talent and dedication have contributed greatly to the agency, and he is an inspiration to many," said Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "We wish him all the best with this new phase of his career."

Hernandez, the son of Mexican immigrants, joined NASA in 2001 and flew on a shuttle mission in 2009.

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Richard Connelly
Contact: Richard Connelly