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Made You Think

Sep 19, 2023

“The idea was to prove at every foot of the way up that you were one of the elected and anointed ones who had the right stuff and could move higher and higher and even—ultimately, God willing, one day—that you might be able to join that special few at the very top, that elite who had the capacity to bring tears to men's eyes, the very Brotherhood of the Right Stuff itself."

Welcome back to another episode of Made You Think! In this episode, we're covering The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe. Through vivid storytelling, Wolfe shares the world of the fearless pilots and astronauts who possessed the elusive "right stuff". The book provides an intimate look at their lives, the challenges they faced, and the profound impact they had on the history of space exploration.

We cover a wide range of topics including:

  • The evolution of the aerospace industry and its rapid growth
  • How fighter pilots became pioneers in space exploration
  • Compelling stories of astronauts and their intense training regimens
  • The battle between NASA and the Air Force in the quest for space
  • What it truly means to have 'The Right Stuff'

And much more. Please enjoy, and make sure to follow NatNeil, and Adil on Twitter and share your thoughts on the episode.

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(0:00) In today's episode, we're discussing The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe. The book not only boasts a charismatic writing style, but also draws intriguing connections to a previous book we covered, Where Is My Flying Car

(3:40) We delve into the book's narrative flow, which initially spotlights fighter pilots and their rigorous training before transitioning into the captivating realm of the U.S. space program. From the early stages to the groundbreaking Project Mercury, the book highlights the personalities behind those who ventured into the unknown.

(6:07) How astronaut requirements shifted from an open-door policy to a more selective process. Plus, we talk about the advancement in computing technology that made these audacious projects possible.

(10:44) What once seemed impossible in the world of space exploration became possible in a short amount of time. There was also a shift from manual to automatic controls as the technology became more advanced. 

(12:57) What does it mean if you possess "The Right Stuff"? As we explore its application in the world of aviation, we draw parallels to other fields, such as sports.

(15:24) Buckle up for some mindblowing facts and statistics on several high-speed aircrafts, including the SR71, Concorde, and X15. 

(19:12) Ever wondered what it feels like to approach the speed of sound in the transonic zone? There are many complexities when it comes to operating a high-speed aircraft like the Concorde.

(22:40) How political dynamics influenced the approaches taken by NASA and the Air Force, from rocket models to plane models for space exploration.

(29:13) The quest for space exploration has been marked by trial and error. 

(31:20) While there are very few remaining opportunities for land exploration on Earth, there is exciting potential for migration to other planets. 

(35:52) It can take between 7-14 months to reach Mars, not to mention the many dangers you may be facing along the way. 

(40:30) We talk about the connection between how you breathe and weight loss, as well as the importance of consistent airflow in your work and sleep environments.

(43:40) Did you know The Right Stuff is also a movie? Make sure to check it out, especially if you are intrigued with this episode!

(45:13) The training regimens for many of these missions were so intense that when the astonauts were actually on the flight, they were seemingly desensitized to the whole experience.

(48:55) There was often tension between fighter pilots and test pilots, as well as discussions on whether becoming an astronaut would be harmful to a pilot's military career. 

(55:55) That wraps up this episode! Our next episode features Cândido Rondon, who you may remember from our episode on The River of Doubt. Stay tuned for that one!

If you enjoyed this episode, let us know by leaving a review on iTunes and tell a friend. As always, let us know if you have any book recommendations! You can say hi to us on Twitter @TheRealNeilS@adilmajid@nateliason and share your thoughts on this episode.

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Thanks for listening. See you next time!