In the days of Hal Roach?s “Our Gang” shorts (“The Little Rascals” for the TV generation), Spanky and his pals used their own ingenuity to build things they couldn?t buy. For Homer H. Hickam Jr., growing up in a small West Virginia coal town, the early days of the space race inspired him and his friends to build rockets. Rocket Boys: A Memoir is the boyhood story of a NASA engineer that did more than read about the future, he set out to achieve it.
In Coalwood, the elder Hickam was the foreman of one of the better company mining towns in a state famous for its rich coal deposits. Hickam, nicknamed “Sonny,” recounts how his father spent most of his time at the mine, his mother?s resigned attitude, and the stagnant cycle of the lives of the miners and their families. Sonny was a typical teenager of the era, interested in having a good time and just beginning to notice girls.
On October 5, 1957, an event happened that changed Sonny?s life forever; the Russian satellite Sputnik circled the planet and marked the start of the space race. Rather than rail against the threat of Communism like his father and other
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