The other astronauts in 'A Million Miles Away' react to the new film and its focus

five astronauts in orange flight suits walk down a white-walled corridor.
The STS-128 crew as portrayed by Michael Peña and other actors in the new movie "A Million Miles Away." (Image credit: Amazon Studios)

They may not be the focus of "A Million Miles Away," but the astronauts who flew with the movie's subject are happy to see him celebrated on the big screen, just as they were glad to accompany him into space.

Set to begin streaming on Amazon Prime Video at 8:00 p.m. EDT tonight (Sept. 14; 0000 GMT on Sept. 15), "A Million Miles Away" is based on José Hernández' real-life story, tracing his pursuit to become a NASA astronaut from his boyhood as a migrant farm worker to his time as an engineer at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory before ultimately achieving his dream. Though it only makes up a small (but important) part of the film, Hernández (portrayed by Michael Peña) is shown interacting with his space shuttle Discovery crewmates, with actors standing in for each.

"José is a pretty humble guy," said Nicole Stott, who joined Hernández on the STS-128 crew for a ride to the International Space Station (ISS), where she then stayed for three months. "He's a very talented engineer, and we knew his family well."

"So I knew José like that," Stott said in an interview with "I didn't really know his story until we were training together, and I do think it's inspirational. I think it is something that a lot of people could take inspiration from who are growing up and maybe questioning if something like this can happen for them."

Related: 'A Million Miles Away' trailer previews the true-life story of astronaut José Hernández

NASA's STS-128 crew, from left to right: Danny Olivas, Nicole Stott, Christer Fuglesang, José Hernández, Pat Forrester, Kevin Ford and Frederick "CJ" Sturckow. (Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

In addition to Stott, who is portrayed in the film by actress Isabel Aerenlund, the STS-128 crew included mission commander Frederick "CJ" Sturckow, pilot Kevin Ford and Hernández' fellow mission specialists Pat Forrester, Danny Olivas and Christer Fuglesang.

"José's story was something which I think all of us knew, but didn't make a big deal about it," said Fuglesang, who represented the European Space Agency (ESA) on the crew. "He wasn't shy about it."

"He was really nice and happy about the flight. He worked very diligently and did a great job," Fuglesang said in an interview with collectSPACE. Fuglesang is portrayed by Samuel Harrison, who is making his acting debut in "A Million Miles Away."

Of all the STS-128 crew members, Sturckow (Garret Dillahunt) gets the most time on screen, serving in the film as Hernández' point of contact at NASA and his mentor. Seated to Stuckow's left and in front of Hernández on Discovery's flight deck was Ford.

"José was our 'MS2' — a very special position on a shuttle flight crew," Ford told collectSPACE. "All shuttle astronauts pay Mission Specialist 2 an extra bit of respect, because they must understand and help execute the dynamic flight phases of flight. They spend hundreds of hours with the commander and pilot in training those areas — launch ops, ascents and aborts, rendezvous and docking ops, de-orbit to entry and landing. They are an absolutely critical flight crew member."

Ford also described Hernández as "a really, really big picture guy," which is one of the themes of the movie.

"He knows life is about a lot more than himself, and even about a lot more than spaceflight. He really cares about bringing people up with him and helping them realize their dreams along with him," said Ford.

Former NASA astronaut José Hernández (at left) with actor Michael Peña, who plays him in "A Million Miles Away." (Image credit: Amazon Studios)

Although they were not involved in its making, the real Stott, Fuglesang and Ford, along with their other crewmates, make an appearance in "A Million Miles Away." Director Alejandra Márquez Abella included archival video and photos of the real astronauts with help from NASA, which supported the film's production.

Today, 14 years after the STS-128 mission, Hernández and his crewmates have gone their separate ways. Sturckow is still flying to space, now as a commercial pilot for Virgin Galactic. Fuglesang is a professor teaching human spaceflight and also serves as an industry consultant. Stott is now the founding director of the Space for Art Foundation, which seeks to help ailing children overcome the challenges they are facing through the awe and wonder of space exploration.

"José's a wonderful person to represent this kind of story, and he continues to live it right with his family and what he's doing, so I'm excited," said Stott. "I'm excited to see the film."

Follow on Facebook and on Twitter at @collectSPACE. Copyright 2023 All rights reserved.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Robert Z. Pearlman Editor, Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.