José Hernández chronicles his success story in ‘A Million Miles Away’

Amazon Studios

By Viviana Ortiz, MWN

José Hernández conquered space after being selected by NASA. In August 2009, the Mexican astronaut spent two weeks aboard the space shuttle Discovery. Now, he is sharing his story to inspire others.

In the new film, ‘A Million Miles Away,’ Hernández recounts his family’s journey and what it was like growing up as a migrant in a foreign country. The film follows his family, who are migrant farmers, on a decades-long journey from a rural village in Michoacán, Mexico, to the fields of the San Joaquin Valley, over 200 miles above the Earth on the International Space Station. With the unwavering support of his hardworking parents and teachers, Hernández’s relentless drive and determination culminate in the opportunity to achieve his seemingly impossible goal.

Amazon Studios

“I feel proud; I never thought my story would make it to the screen. Our director, Alejandra Márquez, made a tremendous effort and did an excellent job because what’s on the screen accurately depicts my life,” explains Hernández in an interview with Metro. “I understand how challenging it is to condense a lifetime into two hours. What encourages me the most and brings me the greatest joy is that it will serve as an inspiration for others to pursue their dreams and reach for their own stars. This film will achieve that.” 

Hernandez aspired to be an astronaut while working in Stockton, California, picking vegetables and hearing on his transistor radio that Latin American Franklin Chang-Diaz, born in Costa Rica, had been selected for NASA’s astronaut program. He realized this dream after 11 attempts, which is why one of his mottos is: “It’s okay to dream big, as long as you are willing to fight for that dream.”

The role of the Mexican astronaut is portrayed by actor Michael Peña: “I had several Zoom conversations with him, and I believe he captured the essence of my character and personality exceptionally well, as did actress Rosa Salazar (who played his wife). In fact, I wrote to Rosa, congratulated her, and told her, ‘I see my wife’s character on screen.'”

Hernandez also discussed the experience of reliving every moment through the feature film:

“It was quite gratifying because, to be honest, there was a time after my return when I felt like it had all been a dream. I kept repeating to myself, ‘Yes, it’s true that I went to space and was on the International Space Station.’ I have videos of the work we did up there, and it was like, ‘Of course, I went there.’ It took me a while to fully accept it, and now seeing it portrayed dramatically in a movie is truly impressive.” 

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Hernandez makes a cameo appearance in the film, which he says came naturally.

“The reality is, I did what I did as an astronaut,” he said. “After completing training, my job was to prepare the spacecraft two weeks before the space mission, and the final step in that preparation was joining the crew. So, I had that white suit with the number one, and I did that several times. So, the role I played in the movie required no practice because I did it naturally.”

Hernandez also shared how being in space changed his life.

“I became an environmentalist. Seeing the Earth from space made me realize how fragile it is. I marveled at sunrise, and during dawn, you can see how thin and delicate our atmosphere is. That’s when I thought, ‘We must take care of our world,’ because if we don’t, we might reach a point where sustaining life becomes impossible.”

A Million Miles Away’ is now streaming on Prime Video.