I was a kid and my mom or the school would take me to the planetarium, there were a couple of items in the gift shop that always fascinated me to no end. There was astronaut ice cream, the space age treat. There were the pens that could write upside down and in zero gravity (the Russians overcame the problem of ink in zero gravity by using pencils, by the way). There were the glow in the dark stars that you could put on your bedroom ceiling to mimic the real stars that you just can never see in the New York City night. Now I get to give these away to CHUD readers… and hopefully ones that have kids that will really appreciate the goodness of powdered ice cream.

It’s for The Astronaut Farmer, the new film from the Polish Brothers and starring Billy Bob Thornton and Virginia Madsen. It sort of feels like a spiritual companion to October Sky to me, from the trailers anyway. Here’s the official summary:

From the time he was a child, Charles Farmer (BILLY BOB THORNTON) had only one goal: to be an astronaut. Earning his degree in aerospace engineering and joining the Air Force as a pilot, Farmer was a natural for NASA’s astronaut training program and was well on his way when a family situation forced him to drop out and return home—effectively ending his career.
But Farmer was not a man to let anything stand in the way of a dream.

He spent the next decade and every cent he had building his own rocket in a barn on his ranch in Story, Texas, working toward the day when he could triumphantly launch it into space. By himself.

Sharing his vision are his wife Audie (VIRGINIA MADSEN) and their children—daughters Sunshine and Stanley, and 15-year-old Shepard, already a budding engineer and eager to serve as “mission control” on the big day. Even Audie’s father, Hal (BRUCE DERN), on hand to lend moral support, can see how his son-in-law’s unwavering commitment has inspired the family with a common dream—something he himself was never able to achieve as a father.
On the eve of the long-anticipated launch, an unexpected problem arises. Farmer’s efforts to secure 10,000 pounds of high-grade fuel catch the attention of the FBI…and subsequently the media, who encamp in droves outside his gate, speculating wildly about this “space cowboy” and his homemade rocket. Farmer finds himself depicted on TV screens worldwide as a renegade hero, inspiring an outpouring of popular support, while simultaneously drawing heavy scrutiny and surveillance from the FBI, CIA, FAA and the U.S. military—all of which see Farmer as a potential risk to civilian safety and will take the necessary steps to shut down his operation.

But Farmer knows this is his only chance, not only to reach his goal of breaking through the Earth’s atmosphere but to instill in his children the courage to pursue their own ideals and never give up…no matter the odds. He will not let himself be grounded again.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a Spring Creek Pictures Production, a Polish Brothers Construction Production: “The Astronaut Farmer,” starring Academy Award winner Billy Bob Thornton (“Sling Blade”), Academy Award nominee Virginia Madsen (“Sideways”), Academy Award nominee Bruce Dern (“Coming Home”) and Independent Spirit Award nominee Tim Blake Nelson (“Eye of God”).

Directed by Michael Polish and written by Mark Polish & Michael Polish (“Twin Falls Idaho”), the family film is produced by Mark Polish, Paula Weinstein (“Blood Diamond”), Len Amato (“Blood Diamond”) and Michael Polish, with J. Geyer Kosinski (“Beyond Borders”) serving as executive producer. Joining the creative production team are director of photography M. David Mullen (“Shadowboxer”), production designer Clark Hunter (“Old School”) and editor James Haygood (“Panic Room”). The music is by Stuart Matthewman (“Twin Falls Idaho”).
“The Astronaut Farmer” will be released by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. It is rated PG for “thematic material, peril and language.”

So we’re giving away the following items:
5 Glow in the Dark Stars and Constellation Book
5 Hat with Title Treatment in Glow in the Dark Thread
5 Metal Rocket Pen
5 Long Sleeve Tee Shirt
5 Kids’ Orange Tee
5 Astronaut Pen
5 Astronaut Ice Cream

Let’s make this contest have five winners, each of whom gets one of the items listed above. Simply send me your name and mailing address to with ASTRONAUT in the subject line. Easy as astronaut pie.

The Astronaut Farmer opens on February 23!