In Alejandra Márquez Abella’s A Million Miles Away, we are transported into a world where a young boy started dreaming of reaching the stars, and only with true determination in his heart did his dreams literally come true. This biopic tells the true story of Jose Hernandez, a migrant farmworker’s son who dared to dream of studying astronomical science. Let’s take a deep dive into the story to learn about the ups and downs in Jose’s life that define his extraordinary path to the cosmos.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Film?
A Million Miles Away began with young Jose and his family relocating to the United States from Mexico. They settled in Stockton, California, where Jose’s father worked hard as a migrant farmworker, harvesting fruits, grapes, and vegetables. In school, Jose initially struggled with mathematics, but his dedication and resilience to improve in his studies caught the attention of his teacher, Ms. Young. She was the only one who recognized Jose’s hidden talent and helped him in the best way possible.
While Jose held a fascination for the stars and the mysteries of the cosmos, it was Ms. Young who encouraged him to pursue the fascination and utilize it in his studies. Young Jose continued to work alongside his parents in the fields, but one day he painted a picture of a corn cob that looked almost like a rocket. Ms. Young visited Jose’s parents, urging them to allow their son to pursue a proper education and recognize his potential to chase his dreams. Jose’s parents listened to her advice carefully and accepted that their son was not meant for the fields but that his destiny was among the stars. Ms. Young departed and encouraged Jose with her words of wisdom. She even took the corn cob rocket painting and kept it to herself as a symbol of the young boy’s aspirations.
How was Jose selected for the NASA space program?
Jose’s parents made a significant sacrifice by investing all their savings into his education instead of buying a home in Mexico, believing it would all be worth it. Jose didn’t disappoint them; he excelled in school, graduated, and began working as a lab engineer in a funded facility. However, in his early days at work he was not very well appreciated by his coworkers. The receptionist even mistook him for a janitor, handing him a set of keys. But Jose didn’t back down from his pursuit of excellence and diligently proved his worth to his colleagues through his work.
During this time, Jose met Adela, and inevitably, the two fell in love with each other. As they shared their dreams, Adela revealed her aspiration to become a chef and open a restaurant one day. It was during this conversation that Jose candidly shared his dream to become an astronaut. Adela was surprised and quite amused at first. She couldn’t help but break into laughter. Still, as she gazed into his eyes, she recognized the commitment within him. Realizing that Jose was damn serious about his dream, Adela encouraged him in his pursuit.
Adela and Jose tied the knot and welcomed children into their family. However, one day, Adela stumbled upon the truth: Jose had sent multiple applications to NASA’s Space Science Program and faced rejection every time from the institution. She confronted him, wondering why he had kept this secret from her. Adela’s anger and disappointment were natural, but her love for Jose and belief in his dream were still there. She asked Jose why he was facing this rejection. She motivated him to figure out what skills he was lacking to be selected for this program. Jose discovered that, apart from his engineering background, he needed many other skills to fulfill his dreams. So Adela proposed using their hard-earned savings, which were originally intended for their restaurant, to fund Jose’s extensive training in various skills, such as scuba diving, piloting, and mastering multiple languages.
Despite their best efforts, Jose’s applications to NASA continued to be rejected. As Jose became frustrated and self-doubt loomed large, Adela remained a steadfast pillar of support. It was she who urged him to take a bold step—to approach the lead scientist of the program, Sturckow, in person rather than sending them emails. Jose visited Sturckow and introduced himself. He confidently shared his background, revealing his dedication and the diverse skills he had acquired. Upon seeing not only Jose’s impressive skill set but also his gentle demeanor, Sturckow was deeply impressed. A few days later, an acceptance letter arrived at Jose’s house. Jose had finally secured an official entry into NASA as a space scientist. However, he was still far from meeting his dreams of venturing into space, but he understood that this was just the beginning of his journey.
Did Adela Open Her Restaurant? How Did Kalpana Chawla Die?
After securing his place at NASA, Jose found himself increasingly absorbed in his work, which prompted him to grow distant from his family. However, he couldn’t allow his own ambitions to overshadow family time. Especially this family, which had made so many sacrifices for him. Recognizing that sacrifice and especially Adela’s support, Jose decided to fulfill her dream of becoming a chef. He opened a restaurant for her, offering his help and dedication to make her dream a reality, too.
While Jose worked at NASA, he came across another brilliant astronaut named Kalpana Chawla, who had already been into outer space once. During their conversation, Kalpana shared her experience and the insurmountable pleasure she had experienced in space. She told Jose that she hoped that he could achieve similar success. However, it was during this time that tragic news shook the world to the core. Kalpana Chawla lost her life in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster (on February 1, 2003), a heartbreaking incident that deeply affected Jose as he heard the news on TV from his restaurant.
This tragic event left Jose worried and contemplating whether he should pursue his dream to reach space or be concerned about his safety and that of his family. However, fate had other plans for him. A new space shuttle, STS-128, was scheduled for launch, and Jose Hernandez had been selected as one of the space scientists for the mission. His role in STS-128 was crucial and contributed to scientific research and experiments conducted during the spaceflight.
Did Jose Achieve His Dream?
With mixed emotions and a heavy heart filled with joy, Jose contemplated his decision to go on this journey, which was his one and only dream. But even in the midst of this, he turned to his wife, Adela, and asked her permission. Although she had anxiety about his safety, Adela did not let her fears deter her husband. STS-128 soared into space, carrying Jose Hernandez on board as a specialist. Jose successfully completed his journey into space, a dream that used to awaken him at night. As he gazed down at Earth from the cosmic expanse, he remembered the words of Kalpana Chawla, who had once described the planet’s beauty to him. Jose Hernandez returned to Earth safely with his beloved Adela and his family.
During A Million Miles Away’s ending, we learned that after serving as a space scientist at NASA and dedicating his time to space studies, Jose Hernandez returned to Stockton, California. Occasionally, he rekindled his connection to the land by picking grapes and investing his time in their Tierra Luna Cellars winery. Today, he resides in Stockton, inspiring others to pursue their dreams while remaining rooted in his culture and land.