Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam
Previously published in paperback as October Sky.
Three years in the life of Homer `Sonny' Hickam, from the moment he sees the Sputnik satellite overhead in West Virginia to his successful launch of a prizewinning rocket.
In 1957, Coalwood, West Virginia, was a town the post-war boom never quite reached, and dominated by the black steel towers of the mine. For fourteen-year-old Homer `Sonny' Hickam there are only two routes in life: a college football scholarship, or a life underground. But from the moment the town turns out to watch the world's first space satellite, Sputnik, as it passes overhead, Sonny and his friends embark on a mission of their own - to form the Big Creek Missile Agency, and build a rocket.
Looking back after a distinguished career as a NASA engineer, Homer Hickam tells the warm, vivid story of youth and ambition that inspired the 1999 film October Sky. It is the tale of a group of teenage boys who dared to imagine a life beyond the confines of the coal pit, and went on to design, build and launch the rockets that would change their lives, and their town, forever.