Monday, November 3, 2014

Book Review #115 - The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

Book 39 of 52
Page count - 352

It is hard to review a book which has an iconic movie attached to it.  It is the wonderfully interesting story of the Original 7 astronauts and the race to send Americans into space.

That said the movie practically used the book as a script.  Next to nothing was left out.  What the book highlighted greatly was the attitudes of the government to the program but, more importantly, the attitudes of "career" military test pilots and this new rocket-propelled civilian agency.

What was most interesting was how the pecking order of the Original 7, and test pilots in general, was fiercely fought over.  Everything rides on being first.  It drives every decision pilots make and effects their wives and families in the process.  Climbing to the top of the pyramid and trying to stay up there is what motivates these incredible people every single day.

The competition between the astronauts was wonderfully paralleled by also following the career of the man who, arguably, started it all; Chuck Yager.  Yager was the first to break the sound barrier but kept his career on the track of fixed-winged aircraft.  He was at the very top of the pyramid and kept on fighting to stay there for as long as he could.

Chuck Yager and the Bell X-1
Ultimately the story focuses on the original Mercury astronauts but the author never forgets the larger picture.  He kept his eyes on the Russians, the president, the military, the scientists and the doctors who played large roles in this adventure.

The whole thing was wonderful.

Read it.  Watch the movie.  Be inspired and reassured that humans can do wonderful, wonderful things when we want to. 

Project Mercury mission patch

Mercury 3 Alan Shepard's mission patch

Alan Shepard inside Freedom 7

Movie poster

Tom Wolfe

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