Former astronaut Jose Hernández said Tuesday he is seeking the Democratic nomination to represent California's just-created 10th District in the U.S. Congress.

Hernández, who grew up working in the fields of California alongside his Mexican immigrant parents, announced his candidacy in a press conference at the city hall in Modesto.

"I went from plowshares to the stars," the self-described moderate Democrat said.

Born Aug. 7, 1962, in French Camp, California, Hernández joined NASA in 2001 as a research engineer and qualified for the astronaut program three years later, on his 12th attempt.

He went into space in 2009 as part of the crew on a shuttle mission to the International Space Station.

Hernández's last NASA post was a job at headquarters liaising with lawmakers on space policy and he said it was there that he first got the idea of entering electoral politics.

He retired from NASA in January and soon became executive director of MEI Technologies, Inc., a technology outfit based in Houston.

The former astronaut resigned from the company and is in the process of moving his family to the 10th District, which encompasses Stanislaus County and part of San Joaquin County.

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