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A Million Miles Away - Michael Peña & Rosa Salazar with our Airstream! - Amazon Production Churubusco Studios

A Million Miles Away - Alejandra Marquez, Starring Michael Peña & Rosa Salazar an Amazon Production at Churubusco Studios in Mexico City. Also where and when they filmed Mosquito Coast.

Jose M Hernandez was born in Mexico. While working in the fields, he co-developed the first digital mammography imaging system. He then persevered to become a crew member on Space Shuttle mission STS-128.



In September of 2023, we were able to watch a very important movie to us, after a long wait! The movie where we lived on set for over a week because they wanted to feature our Airstream! It’s called “A Million Miles Away”.

Although our Airstream was never featured in the movie, the experience was very unique and special. One that we will remember forever.

For those who don't know why an Airstream has anything to do with NASA, we will explain...


In 1983, NASA began using a modified Airstream Excella Motorhome, known as the Astrovan, to transport astronauts from the Operations and Checkout Building at the Florida Kennedy Space Center to the launch pad. The Astrovan was used from 1983 until the program was discontinued in 2011.



The story of the Airstream Mobile Quarantine Facility.


As NASA was preparing to send astronauts to the moon in the 1960s, concerns arose in the scientific community about the threat of unknown lunar pathogens. Fears spread that astronauts could come into contact with bacteria on the moon's surface and expose others upon their return, leading to an outbreak of disease.



While this threat was considered minimal, the need for precaution led to the creation of the Interagency Committee on Back Contamination (ICBC) who searched for ways to safely deal with the threat of lunar micro-organisms. The ICBC and NASA agreed that the astronauts and the samples they collected should be transferred from splash down to the Lunar Receiving Laboratory in a Mobile Quarantine Facility (or MQF).



NASA contracted with a company known as Melpar, Inc. who then subcontracted with Airstream to build the MQF. In total, Airstream built four MQFs which were essentially modified travel trailers. An Airstream travel trailer seemed like the natural choice due to its “aircraft-like” construction, self-containment features, and high-quality living quarters that could withstand the rigours of transportation. 



The MQF was 35’ long and adapted for transport by ship and cargo plane. The sealed aluminum trailer utilized exhaust fans and filters to create an internal negative pressure for biological isolation. A decontamination transfer lock feature was added to allow for the transfer of samples and film that the astronauts had collected.


Inside, the MQF provided comfortable living areas like a standard Airstream trailer including bunk beds, a kitchen, and a bathroom. There were also several unique interior features including a medical examination table in place of the typical credenza table. In addition, each person had a mounted seat with a seat belt and straps on their bunk bed to be used during flight or while moving from one carrier to another.


The first MQF was used for Apollo 11 astronauts Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. They became the first people to land on the moon on July 20, 1969. A few days later, on July 24, 1969, they returned to Earth and splashed down into the Pacific Ocean. They were given hazmat suits and transferred to the USS Hornet where they entered the MQF along with Recovery Engineer John Hirasaki and Flight Surgeon Dr. William Carpentier. Employees here at Airstream beamed with pride at their televisions as they watched the astronauts speak with President Nixon while peering through the rear window of the MQF.



While in the MQF, the astronauts underwent medical exams and submitted reports. They also ate, relaxed, and shared stories of their adventures with Hirasaki and Carpentier. MQFs were used for Apollo missions 11, 12, and 14 before it was determined that lunar pathogens were not a threat and their use was discontinued. An MQF was intended for Apollo 13 but was not used as the mission was aborted due to an onboard explosion. Currently, three of the MQFs produced are on display in various locations. The MQF used during the Apollo 11 mission is on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia. The MQF used during Apollo 12 is on display at the U.S. Space and Rocket Park in Huntsville, Alabama. The MQF used during Apollo 14 is on display at the USS Hornet Sea Air and Space Museum in California. The MQF that was intended to be used during Apollo 13 was transferred to the USDA and its location is currently unknown. 



Airstream’s relationship with NASA did not end once the MQFs were no longer in use. This is when early 1983, NASA began using a modified Airstream Excella Motorhome, known as the Astrovan, to transport astronauts.



How we got on set of A Million Miles Away


We were exploring the mountains of Valle de Bravo in Mexico. One of the most beautiful areas we've found in Central America. It truly feels like you are in Europe while cruising around these mountaintops. We had been parked/camped off the side of the road with a great tourist bike trail for a few days trying to sell soaps and lotions that I made; when I got a weird message on Facebook, Instagram, my email, WhatsApp, and everything public all around the same time.



It was from a random guy in Mexico City asking if I was the owner of an Airstream Motorhome he found footage of online, and asked if we were still in Mexico.... So I quickly replied yes and wondered why he was asking.


He then said that he worked for a studio and they needed an airstream for an upcoming Amazon and Netflix production movie with very well-known actors....

Of course, we were intrigued, the airstream wasn’t quite finished being renovated yet but we had done a lot of work already.


I replied that it could be a cool opportunity, we had no plans or anywhere to be after all, but we’d had some terrible corruption and experiences in Mexico before leaving us hesitant...


I told him about those situations and the impact it had on our family... with losing everything a number of times. He assured us that this would be different and a great experience. I tried to casually ask and get more info on what the movie was about, curious as to why they needed an airstream. I was initially hoping it was going to be about adventure and travel, but then he told us it was a movie about Mexico’s first astronaut. Surely that's a unique topic.


So I quickly jumped on Google to try and figure out what movie it was. That’s when I discovered a blog talking about Michael Pena (I didn’t know his name at the time but recognized the photo) accepting a new acting role as an astronaut for the movie “a million miles away”. I quickly messaged this studio guy and asked if it was the movie he needed us for. He wasn’t supposed to tell me but said yes. So we got quite excited about the potential this story and experience could give us. (We had been slowly sharing our adventures on YouTube and other social media)


To make sure we weren’t getting screwed over by anything again we told him if he was serious about all this, they had to come find us, fill our gas tank, pay our tolls, and escort us into the big Mexico city. A few days later, they came to meet us and we did just that!



We arrived at the studio late at night, assuming they were going to put us in a hotel or something soon. We told them we would prefer to stay in the airstream that night given the time it was already was, past midnight, with our family and dogs in a new area of the big city (where we have been before). They parked us in the alley next to a studio, ran our power cable into one of these units and we ended up having special permission to stay there overnight.


They told us that they were going to gut the interior of our Airstream to build it like the NASA airstream was, which they didn’t mention earlier... and Remi (my husband) was just about finished with our build. So, it would have been quite a commitment for us to destroy all the work we had already done but it was something we were willing to do.


They told us they would rebuild the interior back into a camper but of course, it wouldn’t have looked the way it does now and I was skeptical. They brought us a bunch of boxes to start packing our things. The plan was for them to rent us a storage unit and a place to stay for 3 months.


Knowing they had to start working on the airstream right away. We were asked to quickly pack away everything into these boxes, assuming again that we would be going to a hotel or something, within these first 3 days, or as soon as the contract was signed.


We ended up spending another week parked at the studio just waiting for this contract and updates on what was happening. Since everything had been packed up. We couldn’t even cook and had to go dig up our bedding from the boxes while we waited for news.


A few days later the film crew, set crew, and actors started showing up to test outfits and all sorts of things so we were sitting in the airstream parked in the studio's alley with all these celebrities just walking right by us! And here is where I nearly fall into tears... clearly, I am publishing this blog more than one year later. These several months I spent carefully cherishing the content of Micheal Pena and Rosa Salazar at the Airstream from our dash cam, suddenly I can no longer find... 🙈


I think it's so funny now, after waiting since September to post this blog... the footage I had of Michael Pena was walking by our airstream in several different outfits since they were testing costumes/cameras/lights...


I met Rosa Salazar when she asked if she could sit in our hammock while waiting around the studio (I also didn’t know who she was at the time but she looked familiar) she’s quite a well-known actress after all.


Rosa Bianca Salazar is an American born actress. Born Rosa Bianca Salazar in British Columbia, Canada, she was raised in Greenbelt, Maryland, but left as a teenager to break into the entertainment industry in New York City.


She is extremely kind and sweet. She loved the Airstream and had so many questions about us and our travels as a family. Even mentioning personal childhood moments that left her intrigued with us.


That was certainly the coolest part of this experience but I didn't realize it until later. My aunt has always been very good with names and celebrities. After speaking with Rosa and taking a photo I asked if she knew who this was because she looked familiar to me, but that was all. It didn't take very long for her to start looking up "Brand New Cherry Flavor" which spent many months on the main page of Netflix. If you are Canadian, it would have stood out even more since we typed it "Brand New Cherry Flavour"


A few days later, they finally showed up with the contract and showed us where we would be staying. They found the shittiest and cheapest little apartment available in all of Mexico at the time.... And I know because I had searched for that before while spending a year in the country with nothing but my family and our bags...


The places they found didn’t even have 2 beds. Expecting that we would be okay with living there for 3 months. Of course, we negotiated and told them that wouldn’t work for us (it’s Amazon and Netflix… clearly they have a bit more money to spend for our housing situation given the unique situation that they are taking our home away from us and tearing it apart...)


Do you remember the movie The Rookie?



The Rookie is a movie aired in 2002 with Dennis Quaid and produced by Mark Ciardi, who was also featured in the movie and a producer of ours A Million Miles Away. We watched him FaceTime someone special while featuring the Airstream with ME in the passenger window as a recent development and accomplishment in the preparation of the set to film our movie "A Million Miles Away"


Now they finally delivered a contract... and the contract they finally delivered, stated nothing that we had talked about for price or even appropriate accommodations, it was nearly blank. We felt a bit upset since we had been waiting over a week with an empty RV, for this piece of paper to get things moving along, and thought for sure it would be fixed, sorted and finished by the end of the week. In our shoes at this moment we had no idea what the future looked like all of a sudden. In the moment our life felt at a pause to the unknown.


Later that evening a whole team of producers and people at the studio walked up to us at the Airstream, with masks on, and in broken English said “Thanks for coming by but you can go home to Canada now”


This left us quite confused since we had left Canada 3 years before and never had intentions of returning. We realized that clearly the communication and negotiation messages weren’t getting passed on or understood properly.


So to keep the ending short and sweet 😉, they decided to remove the Airstream scene and CGI a small part. We started emptying our boxes, we vacuumed while it was empty, we put our things back away, tuned up the Airstream and made sure that they had someone escort us back out of the big city.





Also while on the set of A Million Miles Away in Mexico City, I saw the cast of Mosquito Coast. One day I gathered up our poodle and pomeranian on the leash to go for their walk around the block. I noticed a group of people with Justin Theroux and a hat, holding a pack of paper and staring at my pups. I have now learnt that he is an extreme animal lover, even bringing his dog on set and at events. Believe it or not, he is also the ex-husband of Jennifer Anniston! and he was staring at my dogs! literally 🤣. While walking around the studio one evening to speak with our lawyer who was a fellow French Canadian, I also ran into (walked by) Melissa George this encounter also stounds out in my memory because she was wearing an outfit from the show and was very intrigued by me speaking french on the phone. I have now learnt that she is French (let's hope I didn't say anything too bad... lol) but what amazes me the most is how American/common/foreign her accent sounds throughout that series. I even saw Gabriel Bateman, and Logan Polish walking around in her back street boys t-shirt that she wears often during the series.

Mosquito Coast with Justin Theroux and Melissa George has been one of the greatest TV Series we watched in many years. We have a deep connection having been on set, seen the cast, seen the crew, explored Mexico, and in some ways reminding us of our chaotic story leaving Canada into Mexico with nothing left but our bags and each other 💕







 



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