The Right Stuff, a book
adaptation released in 1983, starred Sam Sheppard as
Chuck Yeager, Scott Glen as Alan Shepard, Ed Harris as
John Glenn, Dennis Quaid as Gordon Cooper, Fred Ward as
Gus Grissom, and Barbara Hershey as Glennis Yeager.
This academy award winning movie is an embellished look
at the lives of the Mercury astronauts (the NASA effort
to put a man into orbit). The movie was well received
by critics and won a number of awards.
The movie begins with
Chuck Yeager’s breaking of the sound barrier in the Bell
X-1 jet. The movie then continues with Yeager’s tenure
as a Colonel at Edwards Air Force Base, where many other
up and coming pilots try to prove they have the “right
stuff” as they continually break one another’s speed
records. By 1957, however, the launch of the Russian
Sputnik satellite ratchets up the technological contest,
and the USA then begins to scramble to beat the Russians
to space. It does not work, as the manned Vostok 1 is
launched in 1961 with Yuri Gagarin, making Russia the
first to put a man into space.
The rest of the movie
chronicles the training and eventual orbital space
flights of the earliest United States astronauts, such
as Alan Shepard, John Glenn, and Gus Grissom. Shepard
becomes the first American to reach sub-orbital space,
and then Grissom came next. Glenn became the first to
orbit the earth. Gordon Cooper (Quaid) launched off in
Mercury-Atlas 9 in May of 1963, and was ultimately the
last US pilot to fly by himself in space.