The Right Stuff

Wednesday was General Chuck Yeager’s 96th birthday. He is without a doubt the leader in courage when it comes to flight. Being the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound, he cleared the path for test pilots and astronauts that followed.

Tom Wolf coined the term “The Right Stuff” to describe what let the seven Mercury Astronauts to risk everything.

According to Wikipedia, Wolfe wrote that the book was inspired by the desire to find out why the astronauts accepted the danger of space flight. He recounts the enormous risks that test pilots were already taking, and the mental and physical characteristics—the titular “right stuff”—required for and reinforced by their jobs. Wolfe likens the astronauts to “single combat warriors” from an earlier era who received the honor and adoration of their people before going forth to fight on their behalf.

Yeager himself downplayed the theory of “the right stuff”, attributing his survival of potential catastrophes to simply knowing his airplane thoroughly, along with some good luck.

I will tell you one thing – if you ever visited the air and space museum and took a close look at the original Mercury capsule, you would begin to get a bit of a feel for what those heroes risked. The thing looked like it was put together in someone’s garage using spare parts.

Heroes in battle are said to act as they do as a reaction to the moment. Adrenaline charged, they just ‘do’ it, without a lot of thought to their personal safety. Test pilots and astronauts had plenty of time to consider their safety, their families, and their future. They looked at the fragile machines they flew and then decided to go anyway.

Do what you can for as long as you can, and when you finally can’t, do the next best thing. You back up but you don’t give up.

General Chuck Yeager

When we take risks and fail. We can ‘pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again.” The Chuck Yeagers of the world don’t have that luxury in the event of failure.

Happy Birthday Chuck, and all the best to you and the heroes you spawned. You truly have “The Right Stuff.”


h/t: Joe Sciulli and Clyde Wilson

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