HIGH SCHOOL CLASSROOM, WEST VIRGINIA, 1957
Four high school students set out to build rockets after being inspired by watching the Soviet-launched sputnik cross the night sky. While their first launches are failures, they experiment with new fuels and rocket designs. After they complete several successful launches, the local paper runs a story about them. However, they are arrested – accused of having started a forest fire with a rocket that went astray.
Transcript from October Sky
MISS RILEY, TEACHER
Why don’t you let the boy defend himself?
MR TURNER, PRINCIPAL
And in the second place, this rocket proves nothing. You’ve already admitted having lost a number of your rockets. You cannot prove conclusively… that another one of them didn’t start that fire
Yes, I can.
Are we to conclude, Mr. Hickam, that since leaving school, you’ve not only become an expert in rocket science, but in the field of trigonometry?
I didn’t say that I was a rock…
Obviously, you learned more… in the coal mines than you did in high school.
Let the boy talk. Go ahead, Homer.
Now, that fire was near Welch, just under three miles from our launch pad. And at the time of the fire, the best that we could do was 1.2 miles… which is exactly where we found that rocket, Mr. Turner. See, Mr. Turner, that rocket fell for about 14 seconds, which means… that it flew to an altitude of 3,000 feet… according to the equation… “S” equals one-half”A” “T” squared… where “S” is the altitude, “A” is the gravity constant… or 32… and “T” is the time it took for that rocket to come back down. Velocity equals acceleration times time.
Get him, Homer, get him.
Are you following this, Mr. Turner?
All right, we’re all duly impressed. But do you mind telling me, if you did not start that fire, who did?
At the police station.
What is it?
Whatever it is, i-it’s ingenious. The fins are spring-loaded.
That isn’t a rocket at all. It’s an aeronautical flare. There’s an airport here in Welch. It’s right above where the fire started.
Mr. Hickam, report to my office as soon as we return to school. You do intend to enter the county science fair, do you not?
Yes, sir, we do.
Well, if you intend to represent Big Creek, you’re gonna have to be enrolled as a student at Big Creek.