October Sky begins on the night of October 5, 1957. Residents of the town of Coalwood, West Virginia, peer into the October sky, some with binoculars, searching for a brief glimpse of Sputnik, the first Russian-launched satellite.
The film is based on Rocket Boys, a memoir written by Homer H. Hickam Jr. The memoir tells the true story of four boys in a coal-mining town in Appalachia, each determined to build a rocket that will soar into the sky. It is a serious project. The boys want to help get America back into the "space race."
At the film's conclusion, we discover what their experiences as "Rocket Boys" prepared them what to do as adults.
This is a positive post, so please avoid thinking about the title of Hickam's memoir.
The celebration of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union is the first of two anniversaries in October, 2017.
The second will arrive October 31, preceded by other events, all pointing to the day 500 years ago when Martin Luther posted 95 theses on the city hall door in the small German town of Wittenberg.
These celebrations look back at one contest between nations, and a second struggle between a church hierarchy and a growing demand for theological openness.
The "thesis" is a list Luther offered to debate with church authorities, who were in no mood to allow this irascible young monk to further arouse the faithful.
It is notable that these two events were of a peaceful nature, though, as sinful nations and institutions are wont to do, subsequent events in those contests turned violent.
In the space race, from commanders like John Glenn to the African-American women who under the burden of racial segregation provided crucial technical assistance, a large number of individuals acted positively to give the U.S. an edge.
The African-American contribution to the space race is creatively portrayed in the recent film, Hidden Figures.
Key to both, however, is that at turning points, key individuals emerged to provide practical and inspirational leadership for movements long in gestation.
For the Reformation, which Luther's defiant 95 theses moment indicates, a single man provided a key movement, and drove it forward. Luther proposed an academic discussion of the practice and efficacy of indulgences in his Ninety-five Theses of 1517.
According to one account, Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517.