Amazon’s ‘A Million Miles Away’: How the Son of Migrant Farm Workers Became an Astronaut

Amazon’s ‘A Million Miles Away’: How the Son of Migrant Farm Workers Became an Astronaut September 16, 2023

A man in a NASA astronaut's uniform
Michael Peña as astronaut José Hernández in ‘A Million Miles Away’/Amazon Studios

A Million Miles Away launched Sept. 15 on Amazon Prime Video, telling the true story of NASA astronaut José Hernández.

Who Is José Hernández?

Born the son of California migrant farm workers, Hernández became an engineer and later — with much persistence — achieved his dream of going into space.

Here’s how Amazon describes A Million Miles Away:

Inspired by the real-life story of NASA flight engineer José Hernández, A Million Miles Away follows him on a decades-long journey, from a rural village in Michoacán, Mexico, to more than 200 miles above the Earth in the International Space Station. With the support of his family, José’s drive & determination culminates in the opportunity to achieve his seemingly impossible goal.

Directed by Mexican-born Alejandra Márquez Abella — the film was also actually shot in Mexico — A Million Miles Away is a thoroughly charming story about ambition, hard work, talent and perseverance (it took a dozen tries for NASA to accept Hernández’s application).

While it’s not much discussed in the A Million Miles Away, Hernández is Catholic. He joked in a podcast that “I have 5 kids, like a good Catholic.” His chase courtship with wife Adela is also part of the story.

More Than “Just” an Astronaut

Hernández is also more than just an engineer and astronaut (as if that’s not impressive enough). Here’s a brief expert from his extensive bio at the speakers’ bureau that represent him (it is from a few years ago):

Today, José works as a consultant within the company he founded in 2012, Tierra Luna Engineering, LLC. Here, he works on his areas of interest that include aerospace consulting, renewable energy, and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) outreach.

Projects he has worked on include serving as the technical liaison to Mexico’s Secretaria de Comunicaciones y Transportes (SCT) where he helped develop the technical requirements to procure three communications satellites from Boeing. In this role he assisted in the procurement and the acceptance testing process.

He also ensured the launch and orbit placement of the three satellites with three different launch service providers. Current activities include serving as a visiting professor at the Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP) in Puebla, Mexico where he is mentoring UPAEP faculty and students and through a Space Act Agreement with NASA and the Mexican Space Agency, will assist UPAEP in the design, testing and launch of the first functioning satellite designed and built by a university in Mexico.

The scheduled launch date is October 2019 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket as part of a Nanoracks payload.

Talking to Hernández and Director Alejandra Márquez Abella

Check out the interview video here:

Image: Michael Peña in ‘A Million Miles Away’/Amazon Studios

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About Kate O'Hare
Based in Los Angeles, Kate O'Hare is a veteran entertainment journalist, Social Media Content Manager for Family Theater Productions and a rookie screenwriter. You can read more about the author here.
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