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The Right Stuff


Submitted By danielratner
Words 895
Pages 4
Daniel L. Ratner
William C. Overton, PhD,
EN 102 Effectiveness in Writing
8 July 2007

Exactly What is the Right Stuff?

When people ask what is needed to accomplish an impossible task, or achieve a goal that seems outside the grasp of human power, it is often said that the person who achieves that feat has “The Right Stuff.” This is not some item you can pick up in a store, or that is taught at an Ivy League college. “The Right Stuff” is the intestinal fortitude required to drive on and persevere far after it is said it is no possible. Since the dawn of time it has been wondered if it takes a person of almost god-like proportions to achieve impossible feats, or someone just crazy enough to try. I most cases this is really nothing more that a person with such drive and desire to prove their point they are willing to risk everything including their lives to make something happen.

To properly categorize this concept of “The Right Stuff”, we must look at what has been done in its name. Weather it be BG Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier in the Bell X-1, or the pioneers of the space program in the Mercury and Apollo space programs; one thing holds true they indeed has something that others did not, guts. When the word guts are used it is usually compared to a skateboarder or freestyle motocross rider doing something crazy and dangerous. This while brave and daring is nothing in comparison to the risk involved in the early space programs. People who in fact have this thing we call “The Right Stuff” are easily categorized and found. They are the ones who can fit into four distinct categories. These four things are ambition, dedication, fearlessness, and humility. Few men can truly fit these four categories. While many even in this select group are in many cases doing things to improve their careers, and personal well being, they still have the drive to continue where many others quit.

When talking of ambition, the person we must look at is Alan Shepard. Shepard was a man who continued to push the limits though it was said he was finished. Shepard was one of the original seven to be selected for the Mercury space program, and the first American in space. Shortly after the Mercury program came the Gemini program and he was again selected. Ménière's disease, put a quick end to these plans, and his flight status was revoked. He was reassigned to an administrative position, and spent his time trying to regain his flight status. His ambition to regain his status was unparalleled. Following a new surgical procedure in 1969 Shepard was again cleared for flight and commanded Apollo 14 at the age of 47. He became the fifth and oldest man to walk on the moon.

When talking of dedication, we must look at what drives them to attempt an impossible feat. In this case we can look at BG Chuck Yeager. At the time when Bell Aircraft had a pilot named Chalmers "Slick" Goodlin who had demanded $150,000 to break the sound barrier, the program look to a new pilot. This pilot turned out to be Yeager. He was willing to do this feat for standard Officers pay and was given the job. Two days before the flight he suffered two broken ribs. Afraid to be pulled from the flight he confided in his wife, a veterinarian and his friend about the accident. Using nothing more than broom handle to help secure the hatch, Yeager went on to break the sound barrier.

Fearlessness is a word that is thrown around loosely. Walter Marty Schirra, Jr. is a man who had the honor of flying in all three of the founding space programs, and logged more space flight time than anyone else just short of 300 hours. While many astronauts flew one or two mission, Schirra made the journey three times. His fearlessness to return to space three times set the standard for his fellow astronauts.

The last of the traits is humility. Deke Slayton is a perfect example. When both NASA and the US Air Force grounded him due to an erratic heartbeat, Slayton resigned his commission and chose to continue his work as a civilian. He became a key decision maker in astronaut selection, and continued to assist NASA even though they had put an end to his career. Upon medical treatment years later Slayton did return to flight status and serve on the final Apollo crew. Instead of being brash and full of self-pity, Slayton continued his work even though it meant resigning his military commission. This act is one that many would have never chosen, and instead went on to do something different in the military.

In all four of these cases these men personify the term “The Right Stuff.” The simple fact that they volunteered and served is little in comparison to all the risked in the process. The four men are just a fraction of the men who have this edge, but they are the pioneers, and the trendsetters. These are men of honor and valor who risked everything just to show the world that the impossible is on that to those who are not willing to take chance.

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