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“The Right Stuff” by Tom Wolfe Essay

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Updated: Jan 9th, 2022

In the book “The Right Stuff”, the author bases his ideas on a desire to discover why astronauts agreed to take high risks of space-flight. These flights were carried out in America’s post-war tests and were done with high-powered, trial rocket-propelled spacecraft picked for NASA space programs. This paper, therefore, shows “The Right Stuff” as being fearless courage within and the knowledge of survival in life-threatening moments, and also shows how it can be beneficial and detrimental to mankind.

The Right Stuff as conveyed by the author in this book shows how a space program in the U.S. was an annoyance to astronauts at first. This later turned into a life and death situation forcing them to use their survival instincts in life-threatening moments. The achievement made the astronauts American heroes. The right stuff shows how the astronauts were pushed to the limits to achieve the highest speeds while risking their lives on a day-to-day basis. Although it proved beneficial, ‘The Right Stuff’ was still detrimental in some aspects.

The right stuff also centers on seven astronauts who after going through hectic training programs, eventually put to use the skills they attained in life-threatening situations elevating them to almost legendary status in the U.S. This was during post-war experiments. At the time, there was a space race between Americans and Russians. These men were specially trained to beat the Russians who seemed ahead of the game every time. They were termed heroes because they volunteered to venture into space in crafts that were known to often blow up. The kind of training they underwent was what instilled the right stuff into them, enabling them to achieve their set goals.

In this book, there is the depiction of fear being created constantly. For example, as stated by Wolfe (332) the astronauts were depicted as being scared, reckless and nervous while in real sense, this was the required recipe (right stuff) for this kind of undertaking. This was because it was a death-defying mission that required this kind of fearless courage from within and knowledge which was necessary for survival and accomplishment of the events. Consequently, “The Right Stuff” harmed them.

“The Right Stuff” also seemed to harm almost all stakeholders. As much as the space program seemed beneficial to the country, the astronauts prepared to go to their limits. It also looked highly perilous. This is shown by Wolfe when an astronaut (Glenn) was told to orbit about seven times which was subsequently reduced to three. Glenn, in the book, seemed ready to tackle all the seven orbits when the book stated him asking; “only three orbits?” (Wolfe 332). At this juncture, the book shows that despite the risks, the astronaut still felt he could go seven orbits. This was a very hazardous aspect.

The book also expounds on the negative impacts of this program as portrayed by the wives of the astronauts. Their wives knew they were at risk because the rocket-propelled crafts could easily explode killing their husbands. They also knew that something could happen that could block them from entering earth’s orbit, and yet they willingly continued with the mission in the spacecraft.

Consequently, as shown in this paper, the astronauts were eager to take up risks just because they were made up of the right stuff. Behind the scenes though, there was a lot of worry and anxiety about the safety of the astronauts. This came from their families, the people behind the program, and even the astronauts themselves. The right stuff here still emerged beneficial because it exposed intrepid bravery in the astronauts that not only helped them survive in the crucial moments but also helped them accomplish their mission. The missions are what have shaped the current benefits of air/space travel.

Work cited

Wolfe, Tom. The Right Stuff. New York, NY: Bantam Publishers. 2001. Print.

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