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Farmworker Who Became An Astronaut Says Don’t Give Up On Your Dreams

Cameron Frew

| Last updated 

Farmworker Who Became An Astronaut Says Don't Give Up On Your DreamsNASA/ABC7

Jose Hernandez, an astronaut who rose from working on a farm to soaring into space, says you can’t be afraid to ‘dream big’.

Hernandez, 58, was born in French Camp, California, with his childhood divided between time in the US and his parents’ home in Mexico.


Growing up, prior to settling in Stockton, he’d worked in the fields picking fruit and vegetables alongside his family, with no knowledge of English. In 2009, he launched into outer space.

Check out Hernandez discussing his NASA ambitions in the report below:


The married father-of-five told ABC7: ‘We spent nine months in California, three months in Mexico, but those nine months I went to three different school districts… I gravitated towards math because 1 + 3 is 4 in any language.’


Hernandez’s father Salvador was supportive of his ambitions to become an astronaut. Together, they sketched out a five-point plan to help him achieve his dream; first, they set the goal, and then they worked out how far away they were.

He explained: ‘The third thing is you have to draw yourself a road map to know where you’re at to where you want to go. And then I asked what’s the fourth? He said you’ve got to get an education.’

NASA Jose HernandezPA Images

Earlier in life, having felt exhausted from picking cucumbers, his dad told him: ‘You’re living in your future now. I’m not going to force you to go to school or to get good grades. But if you don’t study, this is your future.’ Hernandez would go on to graduate with a masters in electrical and computer engineering from the University of the Pacific.


However, the path to eventually blasting off with the crew of Discovery in 2009 wasn’t easy. ‘NASA rejected me not once, not twice, not three times but 11 times. It wasn’t until the 12th time that I got selected.’

Hernandez spent a total of 14 days in orbit, circling the Earth 217 times and travelling 5.4 million miles. ‘It’s a ride that even Disneyland would be envious of because you go from zero to 17,500 miles an hour in eight-and-a-half minutes… I wish we had a frequent flyer program,’ he joked.


Netflix is set to adapt his inspirational story for an original movie titled A Million Miles Away, scheduled to enter production in 2022 with Alejandro Márquez Abella directing. There’s currently no release date.


As for how anyone can achieve their goals in life, even if they seem out of this world, Hernandez has the answer: ‘Hard work and perseverance and not being afraid to dream big.’

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

Topics: Life, Astronaut, NASA, Netflix, US


  1. ABC7

    Farmworker turned astronaut Jose Hernandez urges kids not to give up

Cameron Frew
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