Homer Hickam shares his life story, about his journey from Coalwood, W.Va., to the Johnson Space Center.

Don’t Blow Yourself Up, by Homer Hickam (Post Hill Press, 416 pages, $27)

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE M any Americans have heard of Homer Hickam as the protagonist of the movie October Sky, which tells the story of a group of Appalachian miners’ kids who were inspired by the challenge of Sputnik to become “rocket boys,” reaching for the stars. The film’s epilogue tells us that Hickam went on to become a NASA Space Shuttle engineer. That’s true. But the journey from Coalwood, W.Va., to the Johnson Space Center took Hickam a quarter century, taking him through the heat of Vietnam combat, the cold shark-infested waters

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