A Million Miles Away True Story: What happened to Jose Hernandez's instructor Kalpana Chawla?A Million Miles Away is based on Hernández’s autobiography, “Reaching for the Stars: The Inspiring Story of a Migrant Farmworker Turned Astronaut,” released in 2012 Author : Malkit Singh
Termed among the most-awaited movies of the year, A Million Miles Away was released on Amazon Prime Video on September 15, 2023. Ever since was dropped for streaming on Prime Video, A Million Miles Away started buzzing on social media and fans expressed their curiosity in knowing about the people who were linked to former NASA Astronaut Jose Hernandez. Directed by Alejandra Márquez Abella, A Million Miles Away is a true story based on NASA's flight engineer Jose Hernandez which depicts his inspiring decade-long journey from a rural village in Michoacán, Mexico to a million miles away in the International Space Station. A Million Miles Away is a story of determination, hard work, never giving up and whatever adjective comes to your mind when it comes to fulfilling your dream. Hollywood actor Michael Pena plays the character of José Hernandez in the newly released Prime Video movie. A Million Miles Away has not only been buzzing in America but also in India. Yes! you heard it right. Notably, José Hernandez on whom the movie is based has depicted his friendly relationship with NASA's late astronaut Kalpana Chawla.
What was the connection between Jose Hernandez and Kalpana Chawla?
A Million Miles Away is based on Hernández’s autobiography, “Reaching for the Stars: The Inspiring Story of a Migrant Farmworker Turned Astronaut,” released in 2012. As shown in the movie, Jose had a close friendly relationship with Kalpana Chawla. In fact, Kalpana Chawla was one of Jose's instructors when he finally made the cut into NASA after being rejected 11 times. Notably, A Million Miles Away does not shy away in showing Kalpana Chawla. Actress Sarayu Blue plays the character of NASA's late astronaut Kalpana Chawla in the movie A Million Miles Away. As per reports, Kalpana Chawla had played a significant role in Jose's dream to fly into space for NASA. However, Kalpana Chawla's life ended on a tragic note. Below is what was Kalpana Chawla and what happened to her-
Who was Kalpana Chawla?
Kalpana Chawla was the first Indian-origin woman to venture into space. Kalpana was one of the seven astronauts in the space shuttle, Columbia, which exploded over the southern United States during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. Kalpana, who was born in Haryana's Karnal in 1962 and she was the youngest of four siblings, and had a fascination for astronomy from an early age.
Talking about her NASA's career, Kalpana held a certificated flight instructor's license with airplane and glider ratings as well as commercial pilot's licenses for single and multi-engine land and seaplanes. It is worth mentioning that Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata, the founder of Air India and India's first licensed pilot was a huge source of inspiration for her. Hence, Kalpana was the instructor and trainer of Jose Hernandez at NASA.
What happened to Kalpana Chawla?
As per reports, in 1988, Kalpana started working at NASA Ames Research Center and gained US citizenship in 1991. She was selected by NASA in 1994, and as an astronaut candidate a year later for the 15th group of astronauts. Part of two space missions in her astronaut career, she flew in the STS-87 (1997) and STS-107 (2003), logging 30 days, 14 hours, and 54 minutes in space. As part of STS-87, Kalpana had made 252 orbits of the Earth, traveling 6.5 million miles in 376 hours and 34 minutes.
While Kalpana was making headlines around the world including India, no one expected that the STS-107 in 2003 will be her final mission. It was a 16-day mission dedicated to science and research in space. NASA stated that the six-membered Columbia crew performed 80 experiments before the mission ended in a disaster. Kalpana Chawla is the pioneer as an Indian woman in space and the second Indian to travel beyond Earth's atmosphere, second only to Rakesh Sharma. Kalpana during her stint with NASA was part of a 16-day space excursion dedicated to science and research. While entering Earth's atmosphere on its return, the space shuttle exploded, killing all seven crew members, including Kalpana Chawla. As per her request, Kalpana's remains were cremated and dispersed at a national park in Utah, USA.