A bold undercurrent presumably aligns with a dedication to procedure, diligence and professionalism to create the perfect specimen of an astronaut.
Indeed, the American space program would be deeply implicated by its role in the Cold War. Americas military security and psychological pride hinged very much on the success with which the program was executed and reflected in the media. The role of astronaut, which placed those selected in the public eye and with a significant weight resting on their shoulders, also suggested that the right stuff earning this role was something more intangible akin to terms such as the American Dream and democracy. As Wolfe portrays the men in question, we find that these are the antecedent to the Soviet archetype so bitterly opposed. Stellar athletes and model citizens, yet imbued with a human element allowing them to resonate as heroes with the adoring American population. The individuals selected for this rarified and adored service were to carry not just this crucial series of missions but the very image of their nation and people into the stratosphere. Thus, the characteristics defining these men are shown to be lofty and simultaneously unassuming.
Ultimately, however, the right stuff earns a definition which, for all of its metaphorical haziness, comes closest to capturing the authors intent, and perhaps the conception shared by the pilots.
Cutting to the core of the calculated risk inherent in space travel, Wolfe contends that “that unmentionable stuff, after all, involved a man hanging his hide out over the bridge in a hurtling piece of machinery.” (Wolfe, 195) Though perhaps the least institutionalized or refined of understandings, this is nonetheless the most genuine of passages related to the explicit definition of the right stuff. Reinforced by the unfathomable perils and the stolid dedication faced and invoked respectively in the protagonists of Wolfes faithful account, the ever-elusive set of qualities is that rare intercession of fearlessness and brilliance which drives every great man forward.
Certainly, a characteristic which America has often sought to project of itself, the space program and the men chosen to execute its dangerous endeavors would be intended to demonstrate the best of the nations creativity, ingenuity and sheer determination to reach its projected ambitions. Thus, perhaps it is conclusive to resolve that the right stuff is in fact a homegrown American quality of personality and steadfastness that, by the belief of the programs administrators and participants, made the nation and its people the best and most able in the world.
Wolfe, T. (1979). The Right Stuff. Farrar, Straus &.