The Astronaut Farmer is a 2006 American drama film directed by Michael Polish, who co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Mark. The story focuses on a Texas rancher who attempts to construct a rocket in his barn and launch himself into outer space.
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 working 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. But he has done so with the ongoing support of his wife Audrey, his teenage son Shepard, and young daughters Stanley and Sunshine. 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 launch is delayed by endless red tape created by government officials, who seek to stall him beyond his deadline: foreclose on the farm. Farmer was counting on publicity to help him financially. He is denied the fuel he wants (hydrazine), officials claiming he is a security risk and that it is too dangerous to allow a private citizen to launch a space vehicle. Facing financial ruin, he panics, climbs aboard, and, using substitute fuel, he somehow launches the rocket. The rocket falls over and horizontally blasts out of the old wooden barn where it was constructed.
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 while he recovers slowly, he is depressed at the failure of the project and of his dream.
Fortunately, an inheritance unexpectedly left to Audrey by her father Hal's passing allows them to bring their debts current. Audrey, realizing how much Charles' dream means to the entire family, encourages Charles to construct another rocket, financing it with the rest of her inheritance. He is able to do so in relative privacy. Using a ruse to distract snooping officials, Charles succeeds in launching the rocket, while the FAA claims no such thing has occurred. As the rocket rises out of the barn, the locals and law enforcement authorities in the area are amazed to watch it rise into space. After orbiting Earth nine times and suffering a brief period of a communication blackout, Charles returns safely and is given a hero's welcome home, appearing on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and as seen in still photos shown during the end credits.