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The Right Stuff
SUBJECTS — U.S./1945 - 1991; Aviation;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Friendship; Teamwork; Courage;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Responsibility.
Age: 12+; MPAA Rating: PG; Drama; 1983; 193 minutes; Color.
The Right Stuff shows the recruitment, training, and space flights of the first U.S. astronauts. Although the specific dialogue and some minor events have been fictionalized, most incidents reported in the film occurred as shown. The movie is based on Tom Wolfe's excellent non-fiction book of the same name.
The TeachWithMovies.com Learning Guide to The Right Stuff will help teachers and parents introduce the early efforts by the United States to put a man into space, the space race with the Russians, and the culture of test pilots in the armed services.
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The test flight program at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California had the most experienced test pilots in America. Many of them, including famed test pilot Chuck Yeager (the man with the "right stuff"), were passed over when NASA was looking for astronauts. The Right Stuff then shows how the astronauts were selected and trained and how they discovered an unexpected political power.
Learning Guide Excerpt
To give you a sense of how our Learning Guides can be used by teachers to develop lesson plans, and by parents to supplement school curriculum or for homeschooling, we have set out below two paragraphs from the Learning Guide to The Right Stuff.
The Right Stuff describes the efforts of the U.S. to put a man into space. After WW II, the Air Force tested supersonic rocket planes such as the X-15 and the X-20. The film introduces Chuck Yeager, the legendary test pilot who was the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound. (Yeager had "the right stuff.") In 1958, when the Russians launched the first man-made satellites, NASA's Mercury program was established to send a U.S. astronaut into space as soon as possible. The movie shows the selection, training and flights of the first U.S. astronauts, and how they discovered their own tremendous popularity. In one incident, they used that popularity to force NASA and its engineers to install manual controls in the spacecraft rather than to rely exclusively on computers to pilot the missions. (This victory saved the lives of several astronauts who had to fly their spaceships when the automatic guidance systems or various pieces of equipment failed.)
The film describes how the mantle of "the right stuff" shifted from USAF test pilots to the Mercury Astronauts. On the way, we are shown the terror that Sputnik and Soviet superiority in space caused the American people, the initial failures and difficulties of the American space program, and the strong camaraderie that developed among the original seven astronauts, despite their intensely competitive natures. The film is historically accurate in all except minor points and is closely based on the book.
The Learning Guide to the film The Right Stuff contains sections on Benefits of the Movie, Possible Problems, Helpful Background, Discussion Questions, Links to the Internet, and Bridges to Reading. The Discussion Questions are divided into three categories: Subject Matter, Social-Emotional Learning, and Moral-Ethical Emphasis.
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