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Stockton astronaut José M. Hernández featured in Amazon Prime movie

May 10, 2024May 10, 2024

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When José M. Hernández saw the Apollo 17 moon landing, he knew he wanted to become an astronaut. But he never expected his life story to be turned into a feature film.

“I didn’t tell myself, ‘Hey, I want to be an astronaut so that they’ll make a movie about me.’ I just wanted to go up in space,” Hernández said. “I’m feeling very happy, very humbled, because it’s not every day you’re going to get a movie done about your life story.”

And what a story it is.

Hernández was born in French Camp and calls Stockton his hometown. He was a farmworker but decided he wanted to shoot for the stars – literally. Hernandez was rejected by NASA 11 times. NASA finally accepted him on his 12th attempt, and he became the first Mexican American to go to space.

The new Amazon Studios movie “A Million Miles Away” follows Hernández’s journey. While the film stars Michael Pena, all eyes were on Hernández at the movie premiere Tuesday night at The Regal Stockton City Center in Stockton.

Hernández said he wants the movie inspired by his life story to show people, especially children, that anything is possible.

“I’m hoping it becomes an instant inspirational classic,” Hernández said. “I think we’re going to empower not thousands, not hundreds of thousands, but millions of kids, even adults, to reach their maximum potential.”

Hernández added that he really hopes immigrant children find hope and inspiration through the trials and tribulations he went through to get to where he is today.

“People that look like them, speak like them, came from the same background, was able to achieve their own dream. And they can too,” Hernández said.

Several families attended Tuesday night’s private screening. Hernández’s youngest fans are taking Hernández's message to heart.

“It’s exciting to see a movie about someone going to space,” 8-year-old Stockton resident Carter Glaser said. “It’s really inspiring for other kids to see like a movie about someone in space.”

Stockton resident Micaela Messimore, 8, added, “He was born here, and he went to space and he tried and he made it.”

Ahead of the film screening in front of a crowd of supporters, Amazon handed Hernández a check for $10,000 to go toward the Jose M. Hernández Reaching for the Stars Foundation, his nonprofit where he encourages young people to have a passion in STEM fields.

Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln said he is proud that Hernández is shining a spotlight on the city, not only through the new film but also through his charitable work.

“This just proves that there’s a lot of great talent and a lot of great people who come out of Stockton who go on to do great things, but they also love and care about the community, and they give back to the community," Lincoln said.

There will be a few more advanced screenings of “A Million Miles Away," including for some UC campuses. The film will be released globally on Amazon Prime Video on Sept. 15.

STOCKTON, Calif. —