The Right Stuff Characters

The Right Stuff Character List

Chuck Yeager

The first man to break through the sound barrier as a test pilot is situated as the end of the era in which the test flight pilots were the ultimate mavericks in the air, replaced by astronauts. At the same time, however, Yeager is also situated as a pilot who controlled his own destiny rather than merely being “spam in a can” sitting atop a giant Roman candle controlled by those safely on the ground back in mission control.

Pres. Eisenhower

Hard as it may be believe, jet pilots were not the natural choice to become astronauts that came to seem. Everyone from trapeze artists to gymnasts to deep sea divers were considered before the President of the United States, Dwight. D. Eisenhower laid down the: only jet pilots with a college degree would be considered. The latter requirement disqualified Chuck Yeager from consideration.

Alan Shephard

The test pilot chosen to become the first American astronaut shot into space. Shepard thus becomes the second human being shot into space, but his craft did enter into orbit around the earth.

John Glenn

John Glenn became the second American astronaut to be shot into space and the first to orbit around the planet. Glenn is situated as the ultimate All-American hero in comparison to the other Mercury 7 astronauts because of his fidelity to his wife relative to the rampant infidelity among the other six and because of Glenn’s dramatically patriotic rhetoric in public appearances.

Gus Grissom

Poor Gus Grissom. The man at the center of not one, but two of the biggest screw-ups in NASA history. As a Mercury 7 astronaut in The Right Stuff, Grissom’s splashdown becomes mired in controversy when the escape hatch blows prematurely and the capsule sinks to the bottom of the ocean. Grissom was saved, but notably did not receive the same hero treatment as Shepard and Glenn. A few years later, Grissom would get a shot at redeeming himself for unproven suspicion that he was responsible for the hatch blowing. Ironically, he would die in a fire as part of the Apollo space mission precisely because of changes made to the escape hatch following his Mercury disaster.

Pancho Barnes

A one-time rival of Amelia Earhart who later in life established the Happy Bottom Riding Club, a bar which catered to hotshot test pilots and offered a free steak dinner to those who broke the sound barrier.

Gordon Cooper

The final Mercury 7 astronaut to be launched into space and the last American to orbit solo around the planet. Cooper is situated at the other end of the spectrum from John Glenn by virtue of possessing a goody sense of humor often manifesting itself as a lack of seriousness, though in reality he was early on considered the one most likely to be chosen as America’s first astronaut to be launched into space.

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