Interview: José M. Hernández, migrant farmworker turned astronaut, reflects on inspirational life
José M. Hernández credits his father’s five-part “recipe for success,” from defining a goal to achieving it, for helping him realize his dreams.
But the Stockton-based astronaut, the son of migrant workers, likes to add his own ingredient — perseverance — recalling that it took 12 applications before NASA accepted him to its training program at 41 years old.
“That’s why it’s important that we enjoy the journey to the destination,” he said, noting that it’s 80%-90% of the story. That story is detailed in a new movie about his life, “A Million Miles Away,” starring Michael Peña and based on Hernández’s autobiography. A graduate of the University of the Pacific, Hernández was assigned to the crew of Space Shuttle mission STS-128. He later ran for Congress in the Bay Area’s 10th District in 2012. Today, he and his family have a winery, Tierra Luna Cellars, in Lodi.
“You can take a kid out of the farm but not the farm from the kid,” he said with a chuckle.
Since his days in space, four of his five children have entered science, technology, engineering and math fields, and through his foundation, Reaching for the Stars, he aims to “preach the gospel of STEM careers throughout the Central Valley of California, especially in underserved communities.”
I spoke with Hernández, now 61, about the film and the future of space exploration for the San Francisco Chronicle. Read the full interview here.
Images courtesy of José Hernández.