“I had discovered that learning something, no matter how complex, wasn’t hard when I had a reason to want to know it.”
NASA engineer Homer Hickam wrote Rocket Boys to tell the story of how a bunch of coal miners’ kids built a rocket using in an age when not only was there no internet to consult, but even books on the subject were rare. Still, these boys — led by the stubborn Homer (called Sonny) — turned their dream of making their own Sputnik into reality.
Hickam manages a good balance between the science of how a damn rocket even works, and the human aspect of his teammates’ struggle to understand. I think that my favorite aspect of the book, however, was his description of life in a failing mining town in the 1960s. Hickam’s dad served as foreman of the mine, which meant he went from being a well-loved member of the community to a scapegoat as the mine began to fail. Sonny makes some interesting observations about the changes in his family and the town as a result.
Sonny gives a lot of credit to those who encouraged and assisted him along the way, but it’s also pretty obvious that he was a talented and ambitious kid when he set his mind to it. Definitely an interesting and inspiring read.