The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe - Book review

December 11, 2013

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe - Book review

The Right Stuff

Tom Wolfe

The Right Stuff - Tom Wolfe - Front Cover

First published: 1979

ISBN: 978-0-099-47937-6

Publisher: Vintage Books

Pages: 437

 

Tom Wolfe's book "The Right Stuff" is an historical narrative about the drive behind the Space Race in the United States; the astronaut pilots, their wives, the politicians; even describing what went through minds of the monkeys who were the first beings to ride on America's rockets.

The Right Stuff is the stuff the pilots on the cutting edge of aviation are made of; the men pushing the envelope, testing the boundaries of what an aircraft is capable of before it breaks apart or plummets out of control into the ground; the Test Pilots. It is a book wholly concerned with the period in history of the first American space program called Project Mercury and describes what the pilots and their wives went through to get selected. In parallel to the journey of the 7 Mercury astronauts are the achievements of the pilots at Edwards Air Force Base and other flight test centers; test pilots flying the X-series of rocket planes, pilots such as Chuck Yeager and Scott Crossfield.

The actions of the politicians and the press in response to the advances and successes of the Soviet Union in space technology, the relating effect on the general public and the subsequent growth in size and importance of NASA also play a central theme of the book.

Although the book mentions a number of aircraft types, special research aircraft and rockets from the period,  it is not strong on aeronautical detail, preferring more to concentrate on the human aspect, political situation and the expansion of the American Space Program.  This does not detract in any way from the enjoyment that the book can give to aviation enthusiasts and includes many descriptions of pilots in difficult situations.

Tom Wolfe has excelled in immersing the reader of The Right Stuff into the period of the Mercury 7 astronauts, the test pilots outside of the Space Program and the emotional, political and public response to this incredible feat and this book can't be recommended enough.

Aircraft

A list of the aircraft mentioned in this book, however briefly. This list might be of benefit to researchers on aviation topics.

Aircraft Type (inc. varient) Page number
Boeing B-29 Superfortress 55-57, 87, 203
Boeing  C-135 Stratolifter 29
Century series jets 31, 33, 38, 69, 77, 87, 98, 144, 152, 183, 187, 189-190, 203, 205, 239, 247, 258, 260, 290, 318, 411, 415, 417, 412-423, 431
Chance Vought F8U Crusader  105, 128, 137, 171
Consolidated PBY-4 Catalina  103
Convair C-131 Samaritan  183, 260
Convair F-102 Delta Dagger  33, 87, 98, 189, 190, 318
Convair F-106 Delta Dart  144, 190, 239
Convair F-106B Delta Dart  144
Convair F2Y Sea Dart 84
de Havilland DH-108 Swallow  49, 61
Douglas D-558-1 Skystreak  64
Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket  64, 67, 315
Douglas F-4D Skyray  171
E-66A (YE-66A type MiG-21 )  423
McDonnell F-2H3 Banshee  171
Focke-Wulf Fw-190  47
Gloster Meteor  49
Grumman F-11F Tiger  171
Lockheed F-104 Starfighter  77, 87, 98, 152, 258, 415, 417, 422
Lockheed F-104B Starfighter  152
 Lockheed NF-104 Starfighter  421-423, 431
Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star  29
Lockheed P2V Neptune  104
Lockheed T-33  29
 Lockheed U-2  206, 386
Martin B-57  431
McDonnell F-3H Demon  171
McDonnell F-4 Phantom II  13, 27, 82, 98, 187, 391, 389, 419
 McDonnell F-4B Phantom II  98
 McDonnell F-4H Phantom II  82, 187, 389
Messerschmitt Me-262  47
MiG-15 (NATO code:"Fagot")  41, 68, 71
MiG-21 (NATO code:"Faceplate" then "Fishbed")  415, 423
North American A3J Vigilante  12, 13
North American F100 Super Sabre  31, 38, 69, 98, 183, 187, 205, 260, 290,411
North American F-100F Super Sabre  38, 98, 183, 187, 205, 290
North American F-86 Sabre  41, 67, 68
North American P-51 Mustang  47, 53
 North American SNJ  8, 9, 34
 Northrop T-38 Talon  29
 Northrop YB-49 "Flying Wing"  63
 Republic F-105 Thunderchief  87, 203
 Republic P-43 Lancer  40
 Sikorsky SH-34G Seabat  266
 Sikorsky UH-34 Seahorse "Hunt Club 1"  280
   
SPECIAL RESEARCH AIRCRAFT   
   
 Bell X-1  48, 52-53, 55-60, 64, 87, 200-201, 344,
410, 414
 Bell X-1A  64, 202-203, 410, 423
 Bell X-1D  203
 Bell X-2  77, 87, 201-203, 410, 423
 Douglas X-3  202
 North American X-15  64, 70, 74-75, 77, 78, 128, 180-187, 190,
197-202, 204-205, 
208-210, 225, 277-278,
300, 307, 384, 392, 411, 414-419, 422-423, 433-434
 North American X-15B  70, 74, 180, 205
 Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar  70, 74, 180,190,198, 204-205, 209, 412, 414-415, 422, 431
 Convair  XF-102 Delta Dagger  202
 Convair XF-92A  64
 Lockheed XP-80 Shooting Star  87
   
ROCKETS   
   
 Chrysler Jupiter  87
 Chrysler Redstone  74, 136, 196, 200-201, 203, 206-207, 209,
230-231, 238-239, 276, 278, 210, 214, 248,
251, 256-257, 298, 300, 310, 315, 414
 Convair Atlas  74, 87, 148, 170, 206, 209, 299, 230-231, 239,
304, 314-315, 317, 319-321, 414 
 Martin Titan  70, 209, 412, 414
 Martin Titan 3C  412, 414
 Martin Vanguard  73
 North American Little Joe  87, 239
 North American Navaho  87
The Right Stuff - Tom Wolfe - Back Cover
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe - back cover




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