46 pages 1 hour read

Tom Wolfe

The Right Stuff

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1979

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Key Figures

Chuck Yeager

Chuck Yeager (born in 1926) is most famous for being the first pilot to break the sound barrier, or Mach 1, in October 1947. He began his career as a military pilot in World War II and later served during the Vietnam War. According to Wolfe, Yeager embodies the ideal of “the right stuff,” the courage, daring, and moxie required for success in the dangerous world of test flight. He is the standard that the first astronauts try to follow.

The Mercury Seven

The Mercury Seven are the first American astronauts selected by NASA in 1959. In alphabetical order, they are: Scott Carpenter (1925-2013), Gordon Cooper (1927-2004), John Glenn (1921-2016), Gus Grissom (1926-1967), Wally Schirra (1923-2007), Alan Shepard (1923-1998), and Deke Slayton (1924-1993).

Excepting Slayton, each of the astronauts makes a successful trip into space during Project Mercury; Shepard and Grissom take shorter suborbital flights, while Glenn, Carpenter, Schirra, and Cooper are all able to orbit the Earth. Although the Seven all have somewhat similar backgrounds, their differing conceptions of the astronaut’s role occasionally creates friction between them. The evolving relationship between the Seven, their families, and the public constitute the backbone of The Right Stuff’s narrative.