Its scientific name might be Asteroid 122554, but now the astronomical object will also go by the name José Hernández. NASA recently called Hernández, a former astronaut and engineer, and asked permission to name an asteroid after him.
Hernández told KCRA-TV, the NBC affiliate in Sacramento, that he told NASA that he didn’t mind receiving the honor as long as it wasn’t the kind of asteroid one would see in a Hollywood disaster movie.
“Just make sure it’s not one that’s heading towards Earth because I don’t want people to get mad at me if it’s one of those doomsday asteroids,” he joked.
The former astronaut grew up working in the fields of California with his family, who was from La Pieda, Michoacán, Mexico, picking fruits and vegetables. He earned college degrees in electrical and computer engineering and joined the Johnson Space Center in Houston and was selected for astronaut training in 2004.
Five years later, he launched into space on the STS-128 mission and became the first person to use Spanish when he tweeted the message: “I hope the harvest of my dream serves as an inspiration to all! I just set up the computers. Goodnight!”
It took Hernández a while to get into space. NASA rejected him 11 times before allowing him into the program. “It wasn’t until the 12th time that NASA finally accepted me as the 19th class of astronauts,” he said.
Along with an asteroid, Hernández also has a middle school in San José, California, named after him. Netflix is turning Hernández’s story into a film, A Million Miles Away.