José Hernández Headshot
José Hernández
José HernándezHeadshot

José Hernández

Migrant farmworker turned NASA astronaut and inspiration for the Prime film, A Million Miles Away; barrier-breaking engineer and entrepreneur
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The inspiring subject of the Prime film, A Million Miles Away, José Hernández shares stories from his extraordinary journey from migrant farm worker to NASA astronaut, empowering audiences to persevere in challenging environments and to achieve their greatest goals. 

NASA engineer José Hernández wanted to fly in space ever since he heard that the first Hispanic-American had been chosen to travel into space. "I was hoeing a row of sugar beets in a field near Stockton, California, and I heard on my transistor radio that Franklin Chang-Diaz had been selected for the Astronaut Corps," says Hernandez, who was a senior in high school at the time, and who had only learned English at the age of 12. "I was already interested in science and engineering," Hernández remembers, "but that was the moment I said, 'I want to fly in space.' And that's something I've been striving for each day since then." His hard work paid off when he was selected to begin training as a mission specialist as part of the 2004 astronaut candidate class.

One of four children raised in a migrant farming family, Hernández had spent much of his childhood traveling between Mexico and southern California depending on the season, picking strawberries and cucumbers at farms along the route.

Through decades of hard work that took him from a graduate engineering scholarship to a role in co-developing the life-saving, first-ever full-field digital mammography imaging system, aiding in the early detection of breast cancer, Hernandez never lost sight of his dream to go to space. 

Though he was turned down for astronaut training by NASA eleven times, he persevered—and was selected in May 2004. He ultimately became a mission specialist on the STS-128 mission on board the Space Shuttle Discovery, among other roles as an astronaut for NASA.

Since leaving NASA, Hernández has served as the Executive Director of Strategic Operations at MEI Technologies in Texas, and is currently CEO of Tierra Luna Engineering, LLC.

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