Right Stuff, The

The Right Stuff Movie Poster

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.