Homer H. Hickam, Jr. (1943- ) is an author, Vietnam veteran, and former NASA engineer. He was raised in Coalwood in McDowell County. His autobiographical novel, Rocket Boys: A Memoir, was a No. 1 New York Times Best Seller and the basis for the 1999 film October Sky. The movie portrays the exploits of Hickam and his friends, who were inspired by the launch of Sputnik I and launched a total of 31 rockets between 1957 and 1960 at an abandoned dumpsite outside of Coalwood. Hickam graduated from Big Creek High School in 1960 and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech) in 1964, with a B.S. degree in Industrial Engineering. He served in Vietnam and later worked for the U.S. Army Missile Command and NASA, where he retired. His other books include Back to the Moon, The Coalwood Way, and the "Josh Thurlow” series set during WWII.