Yes. Of the 110 letters that went out, Shepard was at first worried that he wasn't included. The Right Stuff true story confirms that Shepard's letter did get lost, resulting in him getting it late and only hours before the meeting at Langley.
No. Like the movie, the Disney+ series is based on Tom Wolfe's thoroughly researched 1979 book, which focuses on a group of test pilots involved with high-speed, rocket-powered aircraft. The book also follows a number of these men as they are selected to become the first Project Mercury astronauts. As part of his research, Wolfe interviewed the astronauts, the test pilots, and their wives. Future seasons of The Right Stuff series will follow through to the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing.
Yes, The Right Stuff fact check reveals that Annie Glenn had an 85% stutter. It had largely prevented her from being able to talk on the phone and communicate effectively. After participating in a speech therapy retreat, her ability to verbally communicate improved. She called her husband on the phone to share the good news. Annie became a lifelong advocate for people with communication disorders. In her 80s, she fulfilled her dream of becoming a teacher when she was a lecturer at Ohio State for a speech and hearing class.
Yes. In exploring The Right Stuff TV series' historical accuracy, we learned that Gordon Cooper's wife Trudy was a licensed and accomplished pilot. Like the other wives, more of her story is focused on in the TV show The Astronaut Wives Club (2015).
According to Tom Wolfe's book, all of the astronauts except for John Glenn took advantage of their rock-star status. Glenn lived like a monk. He had worked long and hard to maintain a good public image. He stayed in shape by running on the beach and was the most focused of the astronauts. This isn't to say he didn't find any enjoyment in fame. He appeared for three straight weeks on the game show Name That Tune, offering fatherly advice to his 10-year-old partner on the show. Glenn was indeed angry over the wild behavior of his fellow astronauts.
Yes. Not only were they highly competitive with each other, their attitudes on life were largely different. Glenn was moralistic and strived to live an exemplary life. Shepard was more carefree and fit the stereotype of a cocky young pilot. All of the Mercury Seven astronauts wanted to be selected to pilot the "first flight of the bird," in this case referring to the first rocket into space. When Alan Shepard was selected, John Glenn was devastated.
Yes. Our research into The Right Stuff fact vs. fiction confirms that on May 5, 1961, the day that astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American to fly in space, he was forced to relieve himself in his spacesuit while waiting on the launch pad. He had been delayed for roughly four hours due to weather and various mechanical concerns. Mission control told him to go ahead and pee in his spacesuit. Since he was sitting and facing upward, angled back slightly, the urine ran up his body toward his head, eventually pooling in his back. Along the way, the warm urine set off a suit thermometer sensor, causing an increase in Freon flow (from 30 to 45), which was used to cool the suit when necessary. It also partially knocked out his left lower chest sensor that had been recording his electrocardiogram.
Yes. John Glenn's launch aboard the Atlas rocket was delayed several times. First, a monkey was sent up to test the rocket. Then, Glenn was delayed again when the weather turned bad. In a PR stunt, President Lyndon B. Johnson was going to visit John Glenn's house to comfort his wife Annie on national TV. However, she refused to let Johnson in. When NASA called Glenn and demanded his wife let Johnson in the house, Glenn never wavered. The answer was no. The public was unaware of Annie Glenn's severe stutter, and she didn't want them to find out on a nationally televised broadcast.
On February 20, 1962, the launch of Mercury-Atlas 6 was successful and John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth in space.
As seen in The Right Stuff TV series, both testing for spaceflight and spaceflight itself were extremely dangerous. In researching The Right Stuff true story, we learned that the Mercury and Apollo space programs claimed the lives of nine astronauts.
Theodore Freeman (NASA Astronaut Group 3) died on October 31, 1964 after a goose struck the T-38 jet trainer he was flying as he approached Ellington Air Force Base near Houston, knocking out both engines. Freeman ejected too close to the ground for his parachute to open effectively.
Elliot See and Charles Bassett, who were part of Gemini 9, died on February 28, 1966 when their T-38 jet crashed into an aircraft factory as they tried to land at Lambert Field in St. Louis in bad weather.
Apollo 1 astronauts Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee lost their lives on January 27, 1967 when an electrical fire spread quickly in the pure oxygen atmosphere of the cabin during a pre-launch test at Cape Kennedy, Florida. Their deaths were also chronicled in the 2018 movie First Man starring Ryan Gosling.
Clifton C. Williams (Apollo) died on October 5, 1967 when the T-38 jet he was piloting encountered mechanical failure after departing from Cape Kennedy, Florida bound for Houston. Williams ejected but was too low to the ground.
Michael J. Adams lost his life on November 15, 1967 as the result of control failure during his seventh flight in the X-15 experimental spaceplane. Adams had been flying at an altitude of above 50 miles.
The first African-American astronaut, Robert Henry Lawrence Jr., died on December 8, 1967 when his F-104 Starfighter jet crashed when he was practicing several quick-descent, high-speed landings with Major Harvey Royer. Both men ejected but Lawrence's ejected seat's parachute never fully deployed.
Several non-astronauts also lost their lives due to accidental rocket explosions on the ground.