September 19, 2023 at 12:58 hrs.
Son of Mexican immigrants in the United States, food collector in the countryside, Jose Hernandez He arrived in space in 2009. Thus, he became a Latino NASA astronaut.
A film about his life was recently released, A Million Miles Away, or A Millions of Kilometers (Amazon Studios), starring Michael Peña.
“I believe that this film will serve to empower many Latinos, especially those in the United States,” said José Hernández. in an interview with Voice of America. “It teaches them that you have to dream big and how those dreams can become reality, no matter where you start in life or your socioeconomic status, but rather where you aim in life.”
“The path to reach that destination is the most important thing,” added the 61-year-old engineer, astronaut and businessman.
Born in French Camp, California, in 1962, José Hernández and his family worked harvesting strawberries and cucumbers on California farms.
With his efforts and that of his parents he was able to enter the Universidad del Pacífico, later doing a master’s degree in Electrical Science and Engineering at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
He had the dream of going to space from an early age, with his father as a great promoter.
“Really the one who empowered me to believe in that dream was my father, who that same night I told him that although I had a third grade education, “I had the wisdom to know why I wanted to be an astronaut,” he told Voice of America.
In 2007 he was selected in NASA group 19, but after several rejections. José Hernández always says that he had to fight against impostor syndrome, to say that he could achieve and deserve achievements.
“Because those who select are exceptional people and when you see everyone, and then you see that “You are the only Latino with brown skin who, perhaps, speaks English with an accent, so you have those doubts,” the astronaut pointed out. “(That’s why it’s important) to overcome those fears.”
Hernández traveled with the Space Shuttle Discovery in 2009, on Mission STS-128. “It went around the world once every 90 minutes,” he remembers with humor, being surprised to see all of North America without separations, like one great nation.
Today, he is proud to have been one of NASA’s Latin astronauts, and that representation has increased in the aerospace agency.
“I think it is a very good thing, because we are more than 60 million Latinos in the United States and we are a segment of society that cannot be ignored,” says José Hernández. “So, for the United States to be competitive in the world market, “We must engage and incorporate all segments of our communities, including Hispanics.”