Has America lost “The Right Stuff?”

Like many Americans I didn’t pay too much attention to the shuttle launch, mission or landing over the past two weeks, but I am not totally ignoring the watershed nature of what is happening and what has happened in our country as a result of the Space Program.  I am just about to finish the book version of “The Right Stuff” and it made pause and wonder if the fundamental nature of our country has changed so much in the last 60 years.  Let’s take a brief look at what happened to propel our country into the space age and what it might take to embark on great horizons again.  I’ll do this over a series of posts.

Chuck Yeager was a unique human being.  He didn’t really become popular, at least in my eyes, until the release of The Right Stuff and the subsequent series of commercials he did for brands such as Pennzoil.  What I find sad is that General Yeager was on the cutting edge of one of the greatest periods of science, military and political discussion and advancement in our lifetime.  He flew the X-1  image through the sound barrier in 1947 and then went on to break the speed record a number of times in other experimental vehicles.

What was it about the men and women of this generation that gave them the nerve and ambition to achieve to such high levels.  Let me share just a few thoughts as I close out this post for today:

  • Most of the men and women who were involved in this era had lived during the depression and the Second World war.  As a result, they understood what it meant to deal with challenge and hard work
  • America was still basking in the glow of the Second World war successes, but we were also dumbfounded by the War in Korea and the growing Soviet threat
  • People in our country were much more “interdependent” than they are now.  It took a much greater deal of cooperation and assistance to survive in the 30’s and 40’s and many of those with The Right Stuff experienced this interdependence

America is now going through another phase where interdependence is required and we also feel the threats on many sides from the Chinese and other growing powers in the world.  Will we again exhibit The Right Stuff or will we just roll over and continue to live on our past successes?

We will talk more about this.