John Herrington is the first native American to travel to space. His mission to the International Space Station (ISS) was a culmination of years of experience and training. Recently, he was featured in Brand USA’s third big-screen film, Into Nature’s Wild. At the film screening, he gave us some exclusive insights into filming the movie and exploring the lesser-known areas of North America.
Can you tell us about your experience of filming Into Nature’s Wild? Can you describe some of the most breathtaking landscapes that you saw in the process?
My experience was quite nice. We were going from one place to another, looking at unexplored locations. At Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Balloon Fiesta (Balloon Festival) was one special event. At this annual occasion, hundreds of balloons in all shapes and sizes were floating in the sky. We also got an opportunity to ride the hot air balloon. Apart from this, we also went to Navajo, New Mexico, which had large groups of sandstorm outcroppings that had been weathered away, and I remember people said that it looked like Mars.
Can you share some behind the scene stories or challenges from the sets that did not end up in the final cut of the film?
The people of Niagara Falls really fascinated me. When we went there, we found a guy who had written about the Underground Railroad and how African Americans had made their way to Canada through these routes during the Civil War. During this journey, many of them had to struggle through the waters of Niagra to move across. I was baffled by this story.
As an astronaut, you’ve seen the Earth from out far, as they say, “speck of dust,” how was that experience?
The one thing that stood out to me was when I was on the very end of the space station, hanging on my thumb and forefinger, looking across the Earth into the vastness of the universe. It felt like there was nothing between me and whatever else was out there. It made me remember when I looked up at the sky and wondered what Earth would look like. The feeling was intense, far beyond anything I had imagined. They tried to recreate it in the film as well.
In your opinion, what are some of the lesser-known natural wonders of the USA that you think more people should be aware of and visit?
There is a lot to explore in terms of mountains and forests. There is a very sacred canyon known as the Canyon De Chelly in the Navajo Nation. We also filmed some parts of the film in that region. The only way to get here is to be toured by a native person, which gives you an insight into the history and culture of this sacred place. People have lived here for thousands of years, but the beauty of its culture is still very new. It is a must-visit.