NASA engineer Homer H. Hickam, Jr.'s autobiography provided the basis for this drama about a teenager coming of age at the dawn of the space race. In 1957, Homer Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a high school student in Coalwood, West Virginia when the Soviet Union launches Sputnik, the first man-made satellite. While most of his friends and neighbors react with fear or distrust, Homer is instantly fascinated and begins studying everything he can find on jet and rocket design. While many of Homer's friends are puzzled by his new obsession, several new friends share his enthusiasm, and with the encouragement of his teacher (Laura Dern), Homer and his fellow "Rocket Boys" begin designing and launching their own homemade missiles. However, Homer's father (Chris Cooper) takes a dim view of his son's interest in rockets and is convinced Homer's future should be the same as his own, working in the local coal mines. October Sky mixes the drama of traditional family conflicts with a nostalgic glimpse of life in the mid-50's and a look at the earliest days of our journey into space.