Freida Riley: Homer, I was in the store today, and I heard some talk. Boy, it's sure hard to keep a secret in this town, isn't it? But I guess I did a pretty good job. You know, there's a rumor going around that I been sneaking off to Welch to see some beau. I wish that rumor'd been true.
Homer Hickam Jr: Yeah.
Freida: They told me Hodgkin's can go into remission, so I might have some time.
Homer: Is there anything I can do, Miss Riley?
Freida: You can accept my apology.
Homer: For what?
Freida: My life's work is teaching. And I believed that if you boys won that science fair, got scholarships, went off and did something great with your lives, somehow my life would have counted for something. Homer. You know what? Sometimes you really can't listen to what anybody else says. You just gotta listen inside. You're not supposed to end up in those mines. You know why? 'Cause I think you made other plans. I want you to know something. I'm proud of you.
Homer: I am.
Freida: Whatever you choose.
[Having been accused of triggering a forest fire with one of the AUK rockets, Homer finds the rocket - AUK XII - having landed far from the area of the fire and his team tries to prove their innocence]
Principal Turner: In the first place, you are not a member of this classroom.
Homer Hickam Jr: Neither are you, Mr. Turner. [students chuckle]
Freida Riley: Why don't you let the boy defend himself?
Turner: 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.
Hickam: Yes, I can. [starts drawing diagram of rocket trajectory]
Turner: 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?
Hickam: I didn't say that I was a rock-
Turner: Obviously, you learned more in the coal mines than you did in high school. [students chuckle again]
Riley: Let the boy talk. Go ahead, Homer.
Hickam: [Explains diagram] 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 [writes on blackboard] "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.
Quentin Wilson: [mutters] Get him, Homer, get him.
Hickam: Are you following this, Mr. Turner? [students laugh again]
Turner: All right, we're all duly impressed. But do you mind telling me, if you did not start that fire, who did?
[Homer is ready to go to the National Science Fair, but an incident involving his father and the mine strikers takes an unexpected turn]
John Hickam: Hey, hey, don't trouble yourself, Homer. You got more important things to worry about. [derisively] Just go look for your suitcase.
Jim Hickam: Forget about it, Homer.
Homer Hickam: Shut up, Jim! [goes back into house and confronts his father] Listen, I'm sorry about what's going on here but it isn't my fault! What do you want from me anyway?
John: Better watch yourself, Homer.
Homer: If I win at Indianapolis, maybe I can go to college, maybe even get a job at Cape Canaveral! There's nothing here for me! The town is dying, even the mine is dying...EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT BUT YOU!
John: [incensed] You want to get out so bad, then go. Go!
Homer: Yeah, I'll go! Yeah, I'll go!
John: GO! GO!
Homer: And I'll be gone forever! I won't even look back!!!![gets out and slams door behind him]
[John and Elsie Hickam debate over resolving the mine strike and help Homer at the Science Fair]
John: Elsie, I don't have the power to settle this strike.
Elsie: The bosses listen to you. They'll do what you tell them.
John: I'm not gonna crawl on my belly in front of those miserable union rats.
Elsie: Is that what this is about? Is this about your pride?
John: It's about what's best for Coalwood. If this mine doesn't produce, then the town dies. Think the union gives a damn about that? They're nothin' but a bunch of greedy sons of bitches...
Elsie: Shut up. Just shut up. [John is silent] Homer once said you love the mine more than your own family. I stuck up for you because I didn't want to believe it. Homer has gotten a lot of help from the people in this town. They've helped him build his rockets. They've watched him fly 'em. But not you, John. You never showed up, not even once. I'm not asking you to believe in it, but he's your son, for God's sake, John. And I am asking you to help him. If you don't, I'll leave you. I'll do whatever it takes to get away from here. I will work, if that's what it takes. I'll live in a tree to get away from you. Don't think I won't.
John: Where would you go?
Elsie: Myrtle Beach. [leaves room]
[Homer's team has won the National Science Fair's top award and he comes down to the audience's delight. Some school officials join the crowd]
Official 1: Tom Webster of Virginia State College. [slips him calling card and pats him in the back] I wanna talk to you about a scholarship.
Official 2: [shakes his hand and slips calling card] Jack Palmer, Virginia Tech. We got the best science program in the state, buddy, okay?
Man: [shakes Homer's hand; in German accent] Congratulations, son. Good luck to you. [leaves as Homer walks on]
Official 3: What did he say to you?
Homer Hickam Jr: What did who say?
Official 3: Von Braun. That was Wernher von Braun. You just shook his hand! [Homer tries to look back and see von Braun, but couldn't amidst the crowd]