The Right Stuff

By Tom Wolfe

Synopsis: When the future began…

The men had it.  Yeager.  Conrad.  Grissom.  Glenn.  Heroes…the first Americans in space…battling the Russians for control of the heavens…putting their lives on the line.  The women had it.  While Mr. Wonderful was aloft, it tore your heart out that the Hero’s Wife, down on the ground, had to perform with the whole world watching…the TV Press Conference: “What’s in your heart?  Do you feel with him while he’s in orbit?”

The Right Stuff.  It’s the quality beyond bravery, beyond courage.  It’s men like Chuck Yeager, the greatest  test pilot of all and the fastest man on earth.  Pete Conrad, who almost laughed himself out of the running.  Gus Grissom, who almost lost it when his capsule sank.  John Glenn, the only space traveler whose apple-pie image wasn’t a lie.

First Published: 1979 | ISBN-13: 978-0312427566

This book is more historical/biographical than scientific/technical. It explores the stories of those involved in and around the first US manned spaceflight program. Wolfe is so good at spinning facts and interviews into scenes that burst into life in your head and this subject, with its adventure, danger and risk-taking, is perfect for Wolfe’s writing style. Before you cringe at the thought that this might be just another ‘Boy’s Own’ story, I have to say that to his credit, Wolfe avoids flat-out hero-worship, as his admiration for the people he is writing about is tempered by his satirical sense. – @sumenrai79 – From 10 Great Books in Space

The Right Stuff is a 1979 book by Tom Wolfe about the pilots engaged in U.S. postwar experiments with experimental rocket-powered, high-speed aircraft as well as documenting the stories of the first Project Mercury astronauts selected for the NASA space program. The Right Stuff is based on extensive research by Wolfe, who interviewed test pilots, the astronauts and their wives, among others. The story contrasts the “Mercury Seven” and their families with test pilots such as Chuck Yeager, who was considered by many contemporaries as the best of them all, but who was never selected as an astronaut.Wolfe wrote that the book was inspired by the desire to find out why the astronauts accepted the danger of space flight. He recounts the enormous risks that test pilots were already taking, and the mental and physical characteristics—the titular “right stuff”—required for and reinforced by their jobs. Wolfe likens the astronauts to “single combat warriors” from an earlier era who received the honor and adoration of their people before going forth to fight on their behalf. The 1983 film, The Right Stuff, is adapted from the book. – Wiki Entry

Author Homepage:

Wiki Entry – Book
Wiki Entry – Film Adaptation

NYTimes Book Review
The Guardian Reflection

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