Tom Wolfe, in his inimitable style, gave us this masterpiece, The Right Stuff, about the original American astronauts: the “Mercury Seven.” Take a break from science fiction and look into this book full of science facts as well as the real drama of families living on technology’s cutting edge at a turbulent time in history.

For those too young to know, the Cold War was a scary time for Americans. Soviet communism was a clear and present danger and technology became the battlefield between the free world and the communists. Tom Wolfe takes us from the Sputnik event, in which the Russians got an artificial satellite into orbit before the United States did, to Yuri Gargarin’s historic “first man in space” flight for the Soviets, to the struggles involved in getting Americans into space.

While Wolfe did his research and had a good understanding of the technical aspects of spece flight, the most compelling portions of this book are the human stories. When I was a child, astronauts were idols–supermen of our time. We wanted to drink Tang because the astronauts did, learn math and science like the astronauts did, go to engineering school like an astronaut, etc. Tom Wolfe explores the more human aspects of the astronauts. Having the right stuff didn’t make them perfect, although they were certainly unique among Americans.

Wolfe also portrays the wives of the “Mercury Seven” sympathetically. The stress of marriage to a test pilot was bad enough, but these women endured even more than that. How did they cope with husbands who were celebrities engaged in dangerous experiments while the whole world watched? This book should give all Americans a greater appreciation for those who dare to explore the unknown for the sake of science or national defense.

Chuck Yeagar as portrayed in the movie version of The Right Stuff

The "right stuff" according to NASA, featuring Neil Armstrong

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Comments

Are you old enough to remember the Mercury, Gemini, or Apollo missions?

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  • SamuraiMarine Apr 15, 2014 @ 9:03 pm
    Read this book years ago, before I saw the movie. Excellent read, and I have read it a couple more times. Wolfe is an outstanding story-teller.

    Great review!
  • Arachnea Mar 31, 2014 @ 8:15 pm
    the book looks like it might be an interesting read as well. great review of the book. i think i said movie in the previous comment.
  • Arachnea Mar 31, 2014 @ 8:10 pm
    i have never watched the movie, though it opened in theatres while i was in the early days of my military career. i may have to give this a visit. excellent review. congrats on lotd.
  • kschimmel Mar 26, 2014 @ 2:35 pm
    A friend of mine grew up in Houston, where her dad worked for NASA during that time. I grew up in INdiana watching the astronauts on TV.
  • vikksimmons Mar 26, 2014 @ 2:23 pm
    I actually lived through that time period with my dad who worked in the space program from Project Mercury through the early days of the space station. Congrats!
  • mansfisa Mar 25, 2014 @ 5:40 pm
    Good Job!
  • ibidii Mar 24, 2014 @ 10:47 pm
    I meant book, I did watch the move, I will have to read the book. I listened to Apollo 13 book and it was great!
  • ibidii Mar 24, 2014 @ 10:45 pm
    Awesome review, I want to watch this movie, and congratulations on Review of the the day!
  • esmonaco Mar 24, 2014 @ 5:22 am
    Great review!! Congratulations on Review of the the day :)
  • alexia-britannica Mar 24, 2014 @ 5:09 am
    Hope this book will be a good one....
  • alexia-britannica Mar 24, 2014 @ 5:09 am
    Hope this book will be a good one....
  • tonyleather Mar 23, 2014 @ 3:38 pm
    This looks like a book I should like to read!
  • RenaissanceWoman2010 Mar 23, 2014 @ 1:31 pm
    I would appreciate this book very much, as I would like to know more about the personal stories of the Space Age. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention. Congrats on Review of the Day!
  • DaveStone13 Mar 23, 2014 @ 12:46 pm
    Congratulations on your recognition for this very well crafted lens.
  • Merrci Mar 23, 2014 @ 10:05 am
    Congrats on Review of the Day! It sounds like an excellent book!
  • rms Mar 23, 2014 @ 10:00 am
    Congratulations on being selected review of the day!
  • LindaJM Mar 22, 2014 @ 6:32 pm
    Oh, absolutely the human stories are the best... not that I've read this book... I just know that human interest stories keep my attention!! Sounds like a great book. Thanks for the review!
  • quiz_queen Mar 22, 2014 @ 1:31 pm
    This looks like an interesting read.
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