A Million Miles Away Adapts Jose Hernandez’ Incredible True Story

Image Credit: Daniel Daza/Prime

Prime Video’s ‘A Million Miles Away’ is a biographical drama film that follows the story of Jose Hernandez, who harbors the dream of becoming an astronaut. He is ten when he first watches the Moon Landing and realizes that this is what he wants for himself, too. At first glance, his prospects of achieving that dream don’t look so good. His parents are immigrants who move back and forth from Mexico to America and work in the fields to provide for their family. However, neither this nor the eleven rejections he faces from NASA dissuade Jose from going after what he wants.

Directed by Alejandra Márquez Abella, ‘A Million Miles Away’ is an inspiring tale of hard work and dedication and how far a person can go if they have the love and support of their family. It is the tale of dream and perseverance that instills the audience to pursue their own dreams, but is it real? SPOILERS AHEAD

A Million Miles Away Remains Mostly True to Hernandez’s Story

‘A Million Miles Away’ is based on the true story of astronaut Jose Hernandez, who became the first migrant farmworker to achieve his dream of becoming an astronaut. Hernandez’s book ‘Reaching for the Stars: The Inspiring Story of a Migrant Farmworker Turned Astronaut’ serves as the source material for the movie, which sticks pretty close to the facts, tweaking only a few things for dramatic purposes.

Image Credit: U.S. Department of State/ Youtube

Born in Stockton, California, Hernandez first thought about becoming an astronaut when he was ten years old. He used to work in the fields, picking fruits and vegetables with his family, sometimes working seven days a week while also attending school. His talent in maths and science was evident from a young age, and it prompted his teacher, Ms. Young, to talk to his parents about not moving around so much as it would affect their children’s education, particularly Jose.

In 1972, when Hernandez saw the Apollo 17 moon landing, he knew he wanted the same for himself. He shared his plans to become an astronaut with his family, who wholeheartedly supported his dreams. To make sure that there was no hindrance in his education, his parents decided to stay in Stockton and encouraged their son to dedicate himself to his dream.

In 1980, Hernandez graduated from high school. He got a degree in electrical engineering from the University of the Pacific and earned his Master’s in electrical and computer engineering from the University of California. As shown in the film, he started working at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and started applying for the space program at NASA around the same time. It took him 12 years and eleven rejections to be accepted for the program in 2004.

Before being accepted for the program, Hernandez worked at NASA as an engineer, hoping that it might help in his acceptance. He worked there for about four years before he was accepted. He assisted in the investigation of the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. He was one of the spokespeople to talk about what went wrong in the shuttle, leading to the tragedy that claimed the lives of all astronauts onboard. In the movie, while he trains for the program, his wife runs a restaurant near the space center. This happened in real life as well. Hernandez finally went to space on August 28, 2009, aboard Space Shuttle Discovery and spent almost fourteen days on the International Space Station before returning to Earth.

Image Credit: Daniel Daza/Prime

When making the movie, the producers Mark Ciardi and Campbell McInnes collaborated with Hernandez to get every detail of the movie right. They revealed that the project had been four years in the making and that Hernandez worked closely with the writers to iron out every kink of the story. “Not only through the writing of the story, but the technical aspects of telling the story, the NASA component, and the training and everything he went through emotionally. He was incredibly important, such a great partner on this, it was a pleasure to work with him,” Ciardi said.

The movie’s creators were also conscious about getting the technical details right, for which they leaned on Hernandez and NASA. “José was probably the go-to person for 90% of all the questions that we had, and then we had NASA. We had an amazing resource with NASA; they were so helpful with this film, and they were so behind it. Getting those technical aspects down, where someone that knows about this, if an astronaut is watching this or someone from NASA, you wanna have them saying, ‘That’s exactly how it is.’ And we try to get that level of authenticity, and that takes research, and every line in the movie has to be substantiated, vetted, and stress-tested,” Ciardi added.

While the creators were focused on the technical details, they also knew that the heart of the story lay in Hernandez’s family and their love and support, which helped cross all the hurdles in his path. Hernandez wants the audience to focus on this aspect and that parents should start a conversation with their children about their dreams. “I think it will be a healthy conversation to have because no one should go about their dreams by themselves,” Hernandez added. To summarize, ‘A Million Miles Away’ presents an inspirational and heartfelt true story of a man who persevered against all odds.

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