30 March 1999
Media - Tourism (Good)
"October Sky": Movie with a Space Tourism Message
Author to become new recruit for the cause?
by Patrick Collins
"October Sky" is a delightful film based on the autobiographical book "Rocket Boys" by Homer Hickham Jr, which tells of his inspiration as a teenager by the launch of Sputnik 1 in October 1957. As a result he decided he wanted to build rockets, although his father wanted him to follow in his footsteps as a coal-miner. Encouraged by his school-teacher and his mother, Homer began building model rockets with some friends, and through persistence they ultimately won a national science competition - and scholarships that allowed them to escape from coal-mining. (Homer himself ended up working for NASA, from where he recently retired.)

Directed by Joe Johnston (Rocketeer, Jumanji) and produced by Chuck Gordon (Field Of Dreams) "October Sky" is genuinely inspiring. It's about dreams and determination and having the will and the strength to persevere in the face of scepticism. It's also a touching father-and-son movie, in which Homer's dour father (played by Chris Cooper of "Lonesome Dove" and "Lone Star") who is devoted to the coal-mining that's killing him, is particularly believable.

However, despite its many qualities, the film fails to note the fact that Homer Hickham has NOT yet fulfilled his dream! For, in the most telling part of the film (at least for Space Future) Homer says he wants to travel to space himself.

This is an entirely understandable wish - and one which, as it happens, he shares with most of the population. So it's yet another sign of how brain-washed the world is that working as a cog in a government bureaucracy that launches a rocket a few times a year is treated as a reasonable substitute for going to space himself! Even this 1999 movie seems to imply that the dream of actually going to space himself needn't be considered seriously.

But since the film is full of the philosophy that you must not give up on your dreams, Homer Hickam is surely going to have to "come out" as a supporter of space tourism.

For, despite devoting his career to NASA, he didn't get a ride - and he isn't going to from NASA. But that doesn't mean he can't get to space. He CAN - but of course ONLY through tourism. And depending on his preference he can get there either as a tourist, or as a member of staff of one of the companies pioneering this field.

So DON'T give up your dream, Homer Hickham! Climb aboard! Your voice will be a great addition to the cause!

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Patrick Collins 30 March 1999
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