Thanks to the efforts of 18-year NASA veteran Homer Hickam, now an author whose  famous memoir “Rocket Boys,” later adapted into the film “October Sky,”  Kiera Wilmot and her twin sister are now heading to space camp!

From ABCNews:

The explosion struck a chord with 18-year NASA veteran Homer Hickam, a former lead astronaut training manager for Spacelab, and later for the International Space Station.

In the late 1950s, Hickam had a brush with law enforcement for allegedly starting a forest fire. State police came to his high school and led him and his friends away in handcuffs, but his high school physics professor and school principal came to the rescue, clearing him of wrongdoing.

Back then, schools did not have zero tolerance rules. Kids could make their mistakes without the threat of a criminal record, or serving time in jail.

“I couldn’t let this go without doing something,” Hickam said. “I’m not a lawyer, but I could give her something that would encourage her. I’ve worked closely with the U.S. Space Academy, and so I purchased a scholarship for her.”

Learning of her twin sister, Hickam raised enough money so Kiera and Kayla could attend space camp together. Hickam runs several scholarships for kids with potential, and hopes to create an ongoing Space Academy scholarship. The twins will attend in July.

The week-long program is a total immersion in science, technology and math. Students also receive hands on space training and learn about the mental, emotional and physical demands astronauts, engineers and technologists face, according to its website. In addition to the hands on experience, students receive one hour of freshman level general credit science after completion.

“I’m really excited about going,” Kiera said. “Especially the zero gravity tank, I’ve always wanted to do that.”

“You’re not just sitting in a classroom hearing about it, you’re on the floor, in spacecraft simulators, experiencing zero gravity,” Hickam said. “They run through real space missions, like voyages to the moon or Mars, where they are given problems they must solve.”




  • omfg

    woot! woot!

    go on ya homer.

    i hope they are inspired by the experience.

  • Marie

    If this kid was white, she would have been labelled a genius who “made an error in judgement”

  • zyasia

    wow…this brought tears to my eyes. it’s wonderful that he saw past the images the police department & even the school district tried to paint of this young lady and realized what happened was an accident that she should not continue to be punished for. the thought of this bright star having a criminal record follow her for the rest of her life because of a mistake was simply ridiculous to me. thank goodness for people who see past the surface and recognize potential.

  • Anthony

    I hope space camp leads to some great career or educational opportunities for this kid. She deserves it.

  • ….

    Deserves it? She didn’t do anything good to earn anything.

  • Shahid Raki

    Alright. Sometimes our youth of today are simply doing things that students are meant to do in their classes, try things and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. An explosion in our society today will get the most immediate of responses. One of the first things that is asked is, who did this and then the questions just line up after that. Thank goodness for Mr. Hickam. Students must still be allowed to do experiments in biology, chemistry, and other types of classes, where some will be successful and some won’t, but they should not be headed for jail because of their attempt at something that caused an explosion. Sort through what was intended, what occurred, and what should hopefully be a workable solution.

  • au napptural

    I’m soo happy for her! God bless this man. I have hope for humanity again.

  • Missy

    I don’t believe she was doing a science experiment. She did something on a dare with a friend. You can’t blow things up at school
    Some community service and nothing on her record would have been fine.
    With said, I thought the idea of charging he as an adult with a felony was wrong and unfair.

  • Nikki

    This is the most beautiful story I’ve ever seen on Clutch! Serooulsy, it brought a tear to my eye. I’m happy for the girls and think that Mr. Hickam should be commended for his random act of kindness.

  • Chandani

    This is just the best! I love that this wasn’t about race, Mr. Hickam saw a bright, curious young woman get in trouble for experimenting and it resonated with him because of his past experiences. And he helped her. This is a great way to end the work day!

  • Claude Jordan

    I love this story. Homer Hickman, VA Tech 64′, has a great story too, but most importantly he saw the same spark in Kiera. Being a Hokie myself and a life long NASA and space nerd, I’m extremely delighted with this story. Go Kiera!

  • dbsm

    @missy i agree

  • ArabellaMichaela

    This is a heartwarming. I am so glad public pressure prevented those Miami people from ruining this kid’s life. Now, she just may end up as another Mae Jemison.

  • Tsaun

    Sad but true.

  • Tsaun

    I am so happy for her and her family. This unfair country finally didnt succeed in ruining another black child’s life!

  • SayWhat

    So because your mind can’t conceive it, you don’t believe it, got it.
    Well this young lady has an imagination and curiosity and those two things are taking her to space camp….

  • Mademoiselle

    I’m jealous! This was a really nice gesture. I hope this whole incident just ends up nothing more than a funny story to tell her grandchildren about the time she almost went to prison.

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