Charles Farmer is a former astronaut-in-training who was discharged from the military before he could fulfill his dream of becoming a vital part of NASA. Having missed the opportunity to travel into space, he decides to build a replica of the historic Mercury-Atlas in the barn on his secluded ranch in the fictional town of Story, Texas, using all his assets and facing foreclosure as a result. When he begins making inquiries about purchasing rocket fuel, the FBI and FAA step in to investigate, and the ensuing publicity thrusts Farmer into the spotlight and makes him a media darling.
Farmer’s first launch is delayed by endless red tape created by government officials, who seek to stall him beyond his deadline to foreclose on the farm. Farmer is denied the fuel he wishes, which would be liquid hydrogen. His ranch facing financial ruin, he panics and somehow launches his rocket before it is ready and without the proper fuel. His rocket falls over and horizontally blasts out of an old wooden barn.
Farmer nearly dies with head trauma and other injuries after his capsule is thrown from the rocket. Spectators and their vehicles are nearly crushed. During the months he spends recuperating, public interest in his project wanes, and when he recovers sufficiently to start anew, he is able to do so in relative privacy with the support of his wife Audrey, his son Shepard, and daughters Stanley and Sunshine. An inheritance left by his father-in-law Hal allows him to settle all his debts and finance reconstruction of his rocket which he succeeds in launching. As officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are arresting his one lone illegal-alien farmhand, the rocket rises out of the barn. After orbiting Earth nine times and suffering a brief period of a communication blackout, he returns safely and is given a hero’s welcome home through the credits.