October Sky

by Homer Hickam

Start Free Trial

What was Zincoshine and was it used as a binder in October Sky?

Expert Answers

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

Zincoshine was a compound made up by Homer Hickam and his friends when they were designing homemade rockets, and it acted as rocket fuel. Attempting to launch their rockets higher and higher into the sky, they determined that the rocket candy fuel they had been using wouldn't get them any further. Quentin, the primary chemist in the group, thought a combination of zinc and sulfur would be more combustible and, if used properly, could propel the rockets further.

Quentin was correct in his assumption that it would be more combustible, but because the materials were not bound properly (the zinc and sulfur were unable to chemically merge without a strong binding agent—a chemical that would facilitate a chemical merging reaction), they violently spontaneously combusted during launch and destroyed the rocket. The group realized a pure grain alcohol (100% alcohol) would be able to be used as a proper binding agent, so they stole moonshine for this purpose. When combined, the mixture worked as intended, and it was dubbed "Zincoshine" for the zinc and moonshine components.

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

Once the boys felt (particularly Quentin) they had reached the end of the utility of the rocket candy fuel, he suggested they use a combination of zinc and sulfur, as they felt it was more volatile and more powerful, exactly what they needed to continue their ever more impressive string of rocket launches.

The problem is that the first rocket explodes and they needed something to hold the powder together.  After considering a number of options they decided that alcohol was going to be the best option so they went and got a gallon of moonshine from John Eye Blevin.  It turned out that it worked really well so he called it Zincoshine after the ingredients.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial