46 pages 1 hour read

Tom Wolfe

The Right Stuff

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1979

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Chapter 13-EpilogueChapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 13 Summary: “The Operational Stuff”

Chapter 13 centers on three major events in the life of Project Mercury: the decision to move the space program to the brand-new Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas; Scott Carpenter’s orbital flight on May 24, 1962; and Wally Schirra’s on October 3, 1962.

Wolfe describes the astronauts’ introduction to the city of Houston on July 4, 1962 (283-88). He calls NASA’s decision to open the new Manned Spacecraft Center as “about the biggest thing in Houston history” (285). The Seven and their families are treated to a parade and a somewhat strange reception at the Houston Coliseum that includes a strip show. This episode is followed by a discussion of the astronauts’ financial situation, which is under increased scrutiny from the government (288-92). John Glenn manages to personally persuade President Kennedy that the lucrative Life magazine deal does not unfairly privilege the Seven over other military personnel because of the intense publicity surrounding the astronauts (292).

The Carpenter and Schirra flights are presented as contrasting visions of what Project Mercury’s goals should be. Carpenter replaces Deke Slayton for the second orbital flight (after Glenn) due to a slight abnormality in Slayton’s heart that was first observed in August 1959 (292).