My faith’s out of this world

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A NASA astronaut who is the subject of a new film has said his space career was the result of “a clear calling from God”.

Jose Hernandez’s inspiring rise from migrant farmworker to astronaut has been chronicled in the Amazon Prime movie A Million Miles Away.

The PG-rated film is based on the 61-year-old’s memoir, Reaching for the Stars: The Inspiring Story of a Migrant Farmworker Turned Astronaut.

It tells of how the Mexican former land worker, pictured above, felt the Almighty telling him to look from the soil to the stars at a young age.

He told The Christian Post: “At 10 years old, in 1972, I remember watching our TV, and I saw astronaut Gene Cernan walk on the surface of the moon while Walter Cronkite narrated the moonwalk. And I told myself, ‘I want to be an astronaut.’ I felt a clear calling from God.”

The tale is also one of persistence, after Hernandez was rejected by the space agency 11 times before being accepted.

He didn’t speak English until he was 12, attending a number of different schools before one teacher recognised his potential and encouraged his parents to help him pursue an education. 

Intent on following his space calling, Hernandez worked tirelessly to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering.

Despite that, NASA said no.

“I was happy with who I was,” he said. “It wasn’t the end of the world if I never got selected. There were over 12,000 that applied for 10 to 15 slots, so it’s very competitive. I understood that.

“But aspiring to become an astronaut gave me so much joy. You’ve got to enjoy the journey. If you’re not enjoying the journey, chances are you’ve picked the wrong goal for yourself.”


Because of his calling, Hernandez knew his goal was the correct one, so he set about improving his applications.

“Every time, I said, ‘I’ve just got to make myself more competitive so NASA can’t say no.’ I found out that most astronauts not only met the minimum requirements, which I did, but also were pilots or scuba-dived, were elite athletes or knew a third language. So, I said, ‘I’ve got to do this too’.”

Finally, aged 42, Hernandez was accepted for NASA training, before realising his space dream.

“It was amazing. I am one of less than 600 people who had the privilege of seeing our Earth from the outside. That’s an exclusive club.

“To see Earth from distance, you realise, ‘Wow, we’re just one race: the human race. And we’re all God’s children’.”

Hernandez said the film is a testament to the power of faith, family and values, and he hopes it serves as an inspiration to anyone striving to achieve their dreams.

It stars Michael Peña as Hernandez, alongside Rosa Salazar and Julio César Cedillo, and is directed by Alejandra Marquez. The film premiered on Amazon Prime in honour of Hispanic Heritage Month and reached number one.

“It’s so wonderful that that is being well received because my concern was that perhaps they would look at this as a plight of a Mexican immigrant family,” said Hernandez, “but it’s really more about family values.”

From New Life Newspaper issue 348

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