From the fields to outer space, astronaut José Hernandez talks pursuing dreams: ‘There are no shortcuts’
By LA Stories Staff California
PUBLISHED 5:00 AM PT Oct. 04, 2021
As a young boy, José Hernandez worked alongside his Mexican immigrant family, picking fruits and vegetables throughout the San Joaquin Valley and Stockton.
When he watched as the first astronauts walked on the moon, Hernandez knew right then and there that he wanted to be just like them. Hernandez told his father of his big dreams — and his father instantly supported him.
“My father gave me a five-ingredient recipe, and he told me, ‘If you’ve followed to the tee, I promise you, as your father, that you’ll reach a goal,'” Hernandez said.
In this episode of “LA Stories,” Hernandez explains to host Giselle Fernandez how he followed his father’s advice and worked tirelessly through high school and college to become an engineer.
Hernandez applied to the NASA space program but didn’t get in initially. He applied again, and again he didn’t get in. Rather than get discouraged, he worked harder and found ways to improve himself to stand out among the other applicants.
It took Hernandez 12 times, but his dream was finally set in motion: He was accepted and got to fly into space at age 47.
“To think a mere 30 years or so, I was picking fruits and vegetables,” he said. “And I’m here today, representing the United States as a U.S. NASA astronaut.”
Today, Hernandez wants to make sure all children — especially children of color — have the chance to achieve their dreams the way Hernandez did. He started the Reaching for the Stars Foundation, which exposes children to STEM-related opportunities.
Hernandez’s life also has come full circle: He now works again with his father, but this time on a vineyard of his own, called Tierra Luna Cellars.
Soon, Netflix will turn Hernandez’s life story into a film. Even now, after all these years, he still follows his father’s advice.
“Like my dad told me, there’s no shortcuts. You gotta do the work,” he said.