Wednesday 2 September 2015

Vernher Von Braun Writes Letter to Rocket Boy

"The first time I every saw Verhner Von Braun was on a black and white television set in my living room in Coalwood, West Virginia, the mining town where I was raised.  He was on the Disneyland show and he was talking with Walt Disney about the possibility of rockets going into space." 
(Homer Hickam Jr.)

It was in 1957 that "Rocket Boy" Homer Hickam first saw the satellite Sputnik arc across the ink- stained October sky, a sight that led to the dream of going to the moon.  But Homer's dream would not be realized as easily as he thought.  His father, the head miner in the town of Coalwood, Virginia, thought that his son should spend his time in the mine shaft, not building rockets that blew up his wife's rose garden fence.  Homer Hickam Sr. was not alone:  most of Coalwood thought the same way

It would take a fellow dreamer to launch Homer's dream.  The Rocket Boy's mother spent her spare time painting a mural of Myrtle Beach on their kitchen wall, hoping to trade the black dust of Coalwood for the sea spray of the Atlantic.  When she discovered that her youngest son, Homer, wanted to build rockets for a living, she wrote a letter to his hero, Vernher Von Braun.  

Homer was shocked when he received a letter from the German rocket scientist.  Included with the letter was a photograph autographed by Von Braun.  It was all the inspiration that Homer needed. With the image of the photograph in his head, and the encouragement of his teacher Miss Riley, Homer made a rocket for the state science fair and won.  He brought the same rocket to the national science fair -- and captured first prize again.  

The same boy who blew up his mother's rose garden fence would go on to put a man on the moon only 12 years later as part of the NASA space program.  Hickam just missed meeting his hero, Von Braun, at the national science fair.  The rocket scientist did see Homer's rockets on display and reportedly said that they were "some of the best rockets he'd seen this side of Cape Canaveral".  

For more information:

1.  Read my post
2.  Watch the movie October Sky (1999).
3.  Read Rocket Boys (1998) by Homer Hickam.

Vernher Von Braun talking to Walt Disney about launching rockets into space on the "Man in Space" episode circa 1950's courtesy

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