In October Sky by Homer Hickam, what does "Auk" stand for?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As Homer tries to build his prototype rocket, he gives it the nickname Auk 1. This is a humorous nickname in the context of the story, namely because of the boys’ eventual success. He gets Mr. Bykovski to held him solder together the pieces of the rocket to make a homemade version of Sputnik. When the rocket is finished, Homer dubs it the Auk.

The Auk is a flightless, extinct bird, indicating Homer’s doubt that the rocket would be successful and fly. However, he was very pleased with the end result. Ironically, the Auk has some limited success and the boys’ passion is truly ignited, leading them to have much success and eventually launching them to stardom and careers in science and technology in the future.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Homer Hickman's October Sky, a group of young boys in a small mining town have decided that they are determined to build a rocket. Luckily, this small mining town has a resident, Mr. Bykovski, who is a genius that can build rockets in his home.

One day, one of the boys, Homer, who is a part of the rocket club, Bear Creek Missile Agency, goes Mr. Bykovski's house to ask him to help him build a miniature rocket. Mr. Bykovski agrees to help solder the pieces of the tiny rocket together. The result of this first rocket is the first of many attempts from the Bear Creek Missile Agency to launch their rockets.

Homer ironically names the rocket "Auk 1". An Auk is a now-extinct flightless bird. Naming the rocket Auk certainly reflects the boys' hesitation that the rocket will actually launch and also reflects their ironic sense of humor.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In chapter 6, Homer goes round to Mr. Bykovski's house to see if he can help him build a rocket. Homer wants to create his own mini-Sputnik by welding a washer to a metal tube. Mr. Bykovski knows better, however, and suggests soldering the two together instead of welding them. He agrees to do the soldering work himself and tells Homer that he'll have his rocket ready for him the next day.

When Homer returns the following night, Mr. Bykovski presents him, as promised, with his rocket. Homer's pretty pleased at Mr. Bykovski's handiwork: a long, soldered tube with a wooden cone for a head. He decides to christen his new rocket "Auk 1." An auk was a flightless bird that became extinct—rather like the dodo—precisely because it couldn't fly.

Calling his new rocket by that name indicates that, although he's pleased with it, Homer doesn't have particularly high hopes that it will get off the ground. At the same time, the name of the rocket's also designed to give the impression that building rockets isn't a complete waste of time, and it is actually making Homer much smarter. After all, it's fair to say that not too many people in Coalwood actually know what an auk is, and so perhaps Homer thinks that the local townsfolk will be impressed by his unusual knowledge.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

October Sky (originally titled Rocket Boys) a story about a boy who, despite growing up in a small mining town, develops an interest in rocketry. Sonny, the main character, founds the Bear Creek Missile Agency (BCMA), a club in which he and some friends attempt to build rockets using various fuels. Their first rocket was titled Auk 1, and it was powered by black powder; all of their subsequent rockets also bore the name "Auk." This name was ironic because an Auk was a seabird that was unable to fly. Moreover, Auks have been extinct since the 19th century. Much like the bird, Auk 1 was not particularly successful at flying; it barely flew six feet before crashing. This did not deter the boys from their quest, however; the "Rocket Boys" ultimately launched 35 rockets.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial