“Who could be more fitting to venture into the unknown beyond our planet than a migrant farm worker?” The compelling and motivating real-life journey of NASA astronaut José Hernández has been portrayed on the big screen, delivering a poignant narrative of resolute determination.
Now available for streaming on Amazon Prime, “A Million Miles Away” is a biographical film that traces José Hernández’s extraordinary journey from a humble migrant farm worker to becoming a mission specialist on space shuttle Discovery during the STS-128 mission. Directed and co-written by the acclaimed Mexican filmmaker Alejandra Márquez Abella and starring the talented Michael Peña, this movie takes viewers on an emotional rollercoaster as it recounts Hernández’s transformation from toiling in the fields alongside his family to pursuing his lifelong dream of venturing into space.
In a heartfelt tweet on the eve of the film’s release on September 15, Hernández, a California native of Mexican heritage, expressed his excitement:”Countdown: Just one more day until the release of #AMillionMilesAway on Prime Video, a film based on my life, perfectly timed with #HispanicHeritageMonth! I hope you’ll watch it and share your thoughts. His journey embodies the strength of dreams and the indomitable human spirit.”
José Hernández’s dream of becoming an astronaut was ignited in 1972 while watching the Apollo 17 mission on television. As he witnessed the astronauts’ adventures in space, he would often gaze at the full moon outside his window and dream of joining their ranks. Hernández revealed in an interview with The Californian in 2016, “That is when my dream to become an astronaut was born because I would hear him, watch him, then go outside and look at the full moon.”I’d return indoors and tune in to Gene Cernan, and that’s when I made a promise to myself – I was determined to become an astronaut.”
Despite facing numerous obstacles, including language barriers, Hernández’s unwavering determination propelled him forward. At the age of 12, he began learning English, setting the stage for his academic pursuits. He eventually earned a degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara, marking a significant milestone in his journey.
Hernández’s path to NASA was marked by perseverance and resilience. He worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory before embarking on his mission to become an astronaut. Remarkably, his application was rejected a staggering 11 times before it was finally accepted when he was 41 years old, making him a member of NASA’s 19th astronaut class.
“A Million Miles Away” beautifully narrates Hernández’s incredible journey, and the film received invaluable support from NASA itself. The space agency provided technical expertise, footage, imagery, and permissions for set designs, props, and costumes, further enhancing the authenticity of the film. Brian Odom, chief historian at NASA Headquarters, highlighted the importance of films like this, saying, “[F]ilms like this provide meaningful platforms to help tell stories like Hernandez’s,While also raising awareness of NASA’s historical significance and igniting inspiration within a new generation – the Artemis Generation.
José Hernández, reflecting on his life’s remarkable trajectory, shared his hope in a tweet: “I hope my story inspires many people to follow their dreams.” “A Million Miles Away” is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video, inviting viewers to witness the incredible odyssey of a migrant farm worker turned astronaut and find inspiration in his unwavering pursuit of the stars.