Have you ever wanted to build a rocket that could launch miles into the sky? Homer “Sonny” Hickam Jr. and his friends Quentin Wilson, O’Dell Carroll, and Sherman Siers believed that they could in Homer Hickam Junior’s Rocket Boys. In the story Homer lives in a small town in West Virginia called Coalwood, because a lot of coal mining goes on there. After Homer sees Sputnik, the world's first artificial Earth satellite, he decided that he wants to join the American Army Ballistic Missile Agency when he graduates. His mother was afraid that he would have to work in the mines after he graduates, so she gave him the idea to build a rocket to impress his father enough to pay his way through college.
His first attempt at building a rocket was with a flashlight tube and a model airplane body. It was fueled by flash powder from old cherry bombs. When he went to set it off, it exploded, destroying his mother’s fence. After this happened, he asked his friends if they would help him build his rockets while forming the Big Creek Missile Agency. Their first real rocket, Auk 1, was powered by black powder flew 6 feet in the air when the solder melted and the washer they used as a nozzle separated from the casing. After this, the boys called themselves the “Rocket Boys”. The launch site of Auk 1 was the place where they would launch all of their rockets. They named the launching site Cape Coalwood in honor of Cape Canaveral.
The Rocket boys had mixed success during their 3 year period of launching rockets from 1957 – 1960. They had several fuel mixtures such as “rocket candy” and I mixture they called zincoshine. It consisted of zinc dust and sulfur with alcohol made from a bootlegger that lived around town to use as a binder for the mix. They fired 34 rockets, the highest one going 6 miles up. They eventually ended up winning the National Science Fair gold medal for their rockets on a project they called “A Study of Amateur Rocketry Techniques”.
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