Real Reads with Astronaut José Hernández

Last week, our newest Real Reads author and former NASA astronaut Dr. José Hernández spoke with 150 students online at Skyline High School in Dallas. Hernández shared memories from his book From Farmworker to Astronaut, based on his life growing up in California as a migrant farmworker and his STS-128 space mission in 2009. His first memory of deciding to become an astronaut came about after watching the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. The students at Skyline had many questions for Dr. Hernández and we included some of the highlights below.

Q&A with Astronaut Jose Hernandez and Skyline High School, Dallas ISD

What kept you motivated when you were younger?

JH: My family had high expectations for me and I did not want to let them down. If I stuck to my dream, I could contribute to my family by graduating from high school and college.

Does ‘time’ work differently in space?

JH: While in space, you go around the world once every 90 minutes (the day lasts 45 minutes and the night lasts 45 minutes). However, we followed the same schedule as our peers stationed at mission control in Houston. We closed the blinds when the sun was out so that we could get some sleep.

Any scary moments during the training or while in space?

JH: During training, there’s an underwater simulation while you’re inside an upside-down helicopter. You go through it three times and each time tests your abilities, including communicating with your team members while holding your breath and exiting the helicopter while being blindfolded.

How did it feel when the rocket first launched?

JH: Best ride Disneyland can ever hope for! After eight-and-a-half minutes, you reach space and it feels like you are weighed down by three hundred pounds or that three people are standing on you while you are lying down.

Dr. Hernández also shared six important ingredients for his recipe for success, which was passed on to him by his father: define your goal in life, recognize how far you are from your goal, draw yourself a road map, stay in school, put in the effort in your studies, and persevere…never give up.

“If you put in the effort, anything is possible.” – Dr. José Hernández

Real Reads 2021

Our outreach program, Real Reads connects teenage and young adult students with authors who resonate specifically with them. Texas Book Festival works closely with facilitators in order to create a culturally sustaining experience for youth and set a space for them to not only explore the author’s purpose and craft but also discover or grow their own aspirations as writers and storytellers.


Real Reads also provides a copy of the author’s book for every student and educational materials to engage students in critical book study.  It also links participating groups with the author through in-person or virtual conversations. During these sessions, authors share their journeys and youth have an opportunity to ask questions and voice their opinions.


Previous Real Reads authors include Elizabeth Acevedo, Marcelo Hernández Castillo, Julissa Arce, Jason Reynolds, Jacqueline Woodson, Angie Thomas, Nic Stone, Erika Sánchez, Matt Mendez, and Kwame Alexander. We are excited to report that in 2020, over 400 teens and young adults joined us in-person or virtually in Dallas and Austin. Next up, 150 students at Skyline High School in Dallas ISD will speak with Astronaut José M. Hernández and discuss his book, From Farmworker to Astronaut: My Path to the Stars. Real Reads is supported by AT&T.