The Right Stuff (1983) - full transcript

Tom Wolfe's book on the history of the U.S. Space program reads like a novel, and the film has that same fictional quality. It covers the breaking of the sound barrier by Chuck Yeager to the Mercury 7 astronauts, showing that no one had a clue how to run a space program or how to select people to be in it. Thrilling, funny, charming and electrifying all at once.

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There was a demon that lived in the air.

They said whoever challenged him
would die.

Their controls would freeze up.

Their planes would buffet wildly...

and they would disintegrate.

The demon lived at Mach 1 on the meter...

750 miles an hour...

where the air could no longer
move out of the way.

He lived behind a barrier through which
they said no man could ever pass.

They called it the sound barrier.

Then they built a small plane...



the X-1, to try and break the sound barrier.

And men came to the high desert
of California to ride it.

They were called test pilots...

and no one knew their names.

Okay, Whiskey Kilo 28, prepare to drop.

Roger, Ground Control.
This is Whiskey Kilo 28...

lowering and launching... now.

Mach .92.

.93.

.94.

Hit a mild buffet there.

Mach .95.

.96.

.97.



.98!

.99!

WK 28, do you want to declare
an emergency?

Negative. WK 28 is not...

Go away.

I was looking at the pictures on your wall.

How come a fancy pilot...

like Slick there,
doesn't have his picture up there?

What do you have to do
to get your picture up there?

You have to die, sweetie.

Well, Yeager, you old bastard.

Don't just stand in the doorway
like some Ionesome sheepherder.

Get your ass over here and have a drink.

I got you something.

Come here.

You could be the first.

The man who breaks the sound barrier
will be on top.

You'd be the one they remembered.

You're the best civilian pilot around.

Good afternoon.

You get that helmet?

It might work.

I'll look like the Galloping Ghost in it.

Some people say the sound barrier
can't be broke.

An engineer will tell you it's an absolute...

like the firmness of the earth.

The sound barrier is a farm
you can buy in the sky.

The controls will freeze up.
You can't budge the stick.

Anybody tries to break it will auger in.

Well now, maybe it can't be broke.

Then again...

maybe it can.

Maybe it can only be broke
for a specified sum.

How much?

$150,000.

Come on, Slick, give us a break.

Non-negotiable, as usual.

What do we do now?

That guy in the corner...

Yeager is his name.

He's some kind of a war hero.
Shot down five Germans in one day.

He's a natural-born stick-and-rudder man.

He's press-liaison man for the Air Force,
I think.

Any problems with him?

- Only one.
- What's that?

Holding him back.

Major.

- Hey there, Yeager.
- Sir.

We were just talking to Slick
about the sound barrier.

Is that right?

We feel that the X-1
is ready to have a go at it.

We think the X-1's got the answer
to go beyond Mach 1.

If there is any beyond.

So, what do you think?

I'll tell you. Half these engineers
have never been off the ground.

They might tell you that
the sound barrier's a brick wall.

It'll rip your ears off
if you try to go through it.

If you ask me,
I don't believe the damn thing even exists.

Waitress, a drink for Mr. Yeager.

No, thanks, I got one.

So, do you think
you want to have a go at it?

I might.

But since, as you say,
this sound barrier doesn't really exist...

how much...

How much you got?

Just joking.
The Air Force is already paying me. Right?

- Why sure, Yeager...
- So when do we go?

How about tomorrow morning?

I'll be there.

See you there.

How much are you paying him?

I think it's $283.

A week?

A month.

Well, that's not bad.

First fellow to break the sound barrier...

gets a free steak with all the trimmings.

I'll have mine medium rare, please.

Honey, you ever been caught
on the desert alone?

I never have.

I don't think I ever will.

Never met the man
who could catch me out there.

I'm half jackrabbit.

Forget it, flyboy.

You'd never catch me.

I believe I will.

Can't be done.

Could I ask you something?

Forget it, sweetie.

She's his wife.

Come on, baby.

Yeah! Come on. Go, go.

Glennis! I'm gonna get you!

Come back here!

Can't hide from me!

- 'Morning, tiger.
- What have you two been up to?

Where's Ridley?

Over there waiting on you.

Can I talk to you?

I got a little problem.

A horse threw me last night
and I dinged up my goddamn ribs.

How bad?

I feel like I broke a couple
of the sons of bitches.

I won't be able to lean over
to shut the door. Got any ideas?

Your left side okay?

I don't want these guys to know
because they'll find somebody else to fly.

- I'll try to fix you a handle.
- Thanks, man.

Can you help me out?
I got a small emergency.

I need to borrow your broom handle.
Just hold this right here.

I think that'll work.

Thank you, sir.

Punch a hole in the sky.

I'll be right back.

- 'Morning!
- Good morning, sir.

How are you feeling?

Oh, just about right.

There she is, partner.
All bridled, saddled and ready to go.

You got any Beemans?

Yeah, I got a stick.

Loan me some. I'll pay you back later.

Fair enough.

Hey, look.

Stick this in the handle.
Take your good arm and just whang it.

Okay, thanks, buddy.

Pre-drop checklist complete.

Ten, nine...

Drop!

There you go, buddy.

Put your spurs to her, Chuck.

Mach .91.

.92.

.93.

Hit a mild buffet there.

Just the usual instability.

Ridley, make a note here,
would you, if you got...

nothing better to do.
Elevator effectiveness regained.

.95.

.96.

More buffeting.

More commotion.

Getting wobbly here.

.98.

She's getting real active.

.99!

What's that sound?

He bought the farm.

That's it. We're back to square one.

Wait a minute.

Ridley, make another note, would you?

Must be something wrong
with the Mach meter.

Jumped plumb off the scale.

Gone screwy on me.

You bust it, we'll fix it.

Personally, I think you're seeing things.

Could be. I'm still going upstairs
like a bat out of hell.

We did it!

We finally broke the sound barrier.

We did it!

I want to place a long-distance call
to Los Angeles.

Who are you calling?

The press!

This is big news.
The sound barrier's been broken.

No, sir. No press.

No word of this is to go
beyond the flight line.

What's going on? This is big news.
We need coverage of this.

No, sir. Sorry, no press.

Those are orders. National security.

But the war's over!

Look, pal, maybe they don't want
someone to know.

Who?

The Russians, maybe.

But they're our allies!

Well, anyway, someone figured it out
that way, and that's the way it is.

Chuck, you're our man!

You're the fastest man alive!

We want you to fly more planes for us.

We want you to fly all our planes!

What you been doing, hedgehopping?

Word will get out, Major.

Maybe not to the press
or the general public.

But soon, every fighter jock, rocket ace,
and rat-racer in the country...

will be headed this way, wanting
to push the outside of the envelope...

and get to the top of the pyramid.

Edwards Air Force Base.

This is the place to be, hon.

They're going faster, farther
and higher here than anywhere else.

I'll tell you something else, too.

We'll climb right up that ladder,
just like we did at Langley.

We?

You mean you.

Hon, we're a team!

I move up, you move up.

Right to the top of the old pyramid.

Slow down, Gordo.

Come on now, you're scaring the girls.

You're scaring the girls. You are!

Come on, Trudy.

Who's the best pilot you ever saw?

Who's the best pilot you ever saw?

You're looking at him, baby.

Come on, cheer up.

Have I ever let you down?

Hi there, pops.

Pancho's? Damn, look who's here.

Deke, that's 62 men...

in the last 36 weeks.

You know what that averages?

Is that Gus Grissom from Langley Field?

What is an ace like you
doing in a place like this?

Well, if it ain't Hot Dog.

Gordo...

- Cooper, right?
- Yeah.

Gordo thinks he's one of those
hot-dog pilots you hear so much about.

You got a short memory.

I am not one of them hot-dog pilots.
I am the Hot Dog Man himself.

I guess you're too shy to tell this guy
how I used to wax your tail.

Wax my tail?

Hot Dog, you were just in my shadow.

That's where you'll always be.

What are you two rookies going to have?

Rookies?

Now hold on, sis.

You are looking
at a whole new ballgame here now.

In a few years I bet you're even
going to immortalize us...

by putting our pictures up there
on your wall.

Did I say something wrong?

I'll tell you. We got two categories
of pilots around here.

We got your prime pilots
that get all the hot planes.

And we got your pudknockers
who dream about getting the hot planes.

Now what are you two pudknockers
going to have?

Scotch.

You know what happened!
The machine broke.

It didn't, it's the man.
He was dead before he went up.

Don't talk about it here.

Good one. Now fire it in here.

Look at old Yeager.

On top of the pyramid
for five goddamn years.

Every time somebody goes faster,
he just goes up again.

He stays the fastest man alive.

You know...

sometimes...

all it takes is just the sound
of a truck starting.

I think:

"That's the crash truck."

Anyway...

I'm really glad we could talk.

I thought I was the only one
who had these nightmares.

Yeah. Me, too.

Nobody ever wants to talk
about anything around here.

Everybody's always trying to...

"maintain an even strain."

Well, you marry a fighter jock
and you marry the military.

I'll tell you one thing.

The military owes me for all this.

One day I expect the military
to make good.

Well, it sure ain't your average dull life.

I went East for a reunion...

and all my friends could talk about
was their husbands' work.

How dog-eat-dog and cutthroat it was
on Madison Avenue...

places like that.

Cutthroat?

I wondered how they would have felt...

if each time their husband
went in to make a deal...

there was a one in four chance
he wouldn't come out of the meeting.

I'm going home to my folks in San Diego.

What did Gordo say?

He "maintained an even strain."

Look at them.

You'd think they were talking
about sports.

Men...

Sometimes they're just such... assholes.

Sometimes they sure are
handy assholes, though.

Yeah, sometimes...

Sometimes.

You want a hot dog?

I'm leaving, Gordo.

Look at that!

Yeah, that's the D-558 Phase Two.

Scott Crossfield.

It sure as hell is. Jesus!

He scorched that one, didn't he?

He's pushing the outside of the envelope.

He must be going for a record.

He's shooting for Mach 2, I heard.

On the 50th anniversary
of the Wright Brothers' historic flight...

another historic flight takes place
as Scott Crossfield...

streaks across the skies
over the high desert in California.

Mach 2.

Almost 1,500 miles per hour...

and a new world record!

It's a field day for the press.

Congratulations come
from a previous record holder...

as he shakes the hand
of the fastest man alive, Scott Crossfield.

And there's a comradeship of speed.

To Scott Crossfield, the fastest man alive.

To the D-558 Phase Two.

I'll tell you a quick one.

The one about the newlyweds...

who didn't know the difference
between Vaseline and putty.

All their windows fell out.

Compliments of Pancho's, Scotty.

The real test wasn't Mach 2.

I guess that demon lives out
at about 2.3 on your Mach meter.

Yeah, but Mach 2 was the magic number.

Like 60 homers, like batting .400,
like the four-minute mile.

The press likes a nice round number.

After that, they don't care,
until the next magic number.

You need more than speed records.
You need coverage.

Coverage?

You mean them root weevils
that crawl around popping off cameras?

Those root weevils write history.

Let them write the history,
and let the pilots fly the planes.

Pilots.

You know what really makes
your rocket ships go up?

The aerodynamics would take
so long to explain to you that...

Funding.

That's what makes your ships go up.

I'll tell you something.

And you guys, too.

No bucks, no Buck Rogers.

Whoever gets the funding
gets the technology.

Whoever gets the technology stays on top.

Flyboy, let's dance.

I'll drink to that.

He'll be going after Crossfield soon,
won't he?

No, he won't.

He'll be going after that demon
that lives in the thin air.

You got any Beemans?

Even before you hit Mach 2,
she'll be unforgiving on you.

So take it easy.
Wring her out a little bit this time.

You got any gum?

Yeah, I got me a stick.

Loan me some. I'll pay you back later.

- Fair enough.
- Thank you.

Okay, drop her.

All right, here we go again.

Drop!

Number 3 coming on.

Got seven seconds on 150 right now.

I've got you in sight, Chuck.

Going out of sight...

now!

Mach 1.

Number 4.

Here goes Mach 2.

- 2.1. Sorry, Scotty.
- Hey, Chuck,

you got her now, buddy.
You can ease it on back.

Bring it on in.

I'm pushing the envelope.

See where that old demon lives.

Come in, Chuck.

Say again. Over.

Do you read? Over.

Damn! He's uncorked it!

Mayday! Mayday!

Alert all ground crews.

Talk to me!

Mayday! Mayday! Alert the ground crews.

Come in!

Do you read me? Over.

I'm fighting bad here.

I'm down to 25,000 over Tehachapi.

I don't know if I can make it
back to base or not.

What happened?

Think I must have bust the canopy
with my head.

I'm getting okay now.

We sure chased that old demon this time.

That's as fast as a man can go.

What's next, Ridley?

It's called Sputnik.

We know. Sit down.

And as I was saying...

whoever controls
the high ground of space...

will control the world.

The Roman Empire controlled
the world because it could build roads.

Later, the British Empire was dominant
because it had ships.

In the air stage, we were powerful
because we had the airplane.

Now the Communists have established
a foothold in outer space.

Soon they'll have space platforms
to drop nuclear bombs on us...

like rocks from a highway overpass.

How the hell did they get ahead of us?

Gentlemen, I think we're ready.

Is there a loose plug over there anywhere?

Here it is. I'll get it.

Senator Johnson's right.
This is Armageddon.

The decisive battle
between the forces of good and evil.

We're engaged in a struggle for survival.

This footage was assembled from...

sources operating under deep cover
at great risk.

Very great!

We're fortunate this material
did not perish with a couple of men.

This is secret footage
of the Russian Korabl rocket...

and these are the German scientists
that they captured after the war.

Was it their German scientists
who got them up there first?

No, it was not, Senator.

Our Germans are better
than their Germans.

That's Titov on the right
and on the left is Gagarin.

No, Titov's on the left.
Gagarin's on the right.

They bear a great resemblance
to each other.

If the Soviets ever do put a man up there,
it will be one of these two.

Most likely, the one on the left.

- Gagarin.
- Titov.

Isn't that their chief designer?

We know very little about him.

- Let us see him again.
- Here's some more of him.

They've developed a program
of stupendous dimensions...

and he is clearly the genius behind it.

I, for one, do not intend to go to sleep...

by the light of a Communist moon.

Get that moron off of there!

We could have orbited
a satellite a year ago...

if we had been given a green light.

Now we must get something up there
quick and dirty, any way at all.

Well, what?

By combining our available rockets,
the Redstone, the Atlas...

I agree that we could launch a pod.

A pot?

A pod.

A capsule.

Now, we will be in full control of this pod.

It will go up like a cannonball...

and come down like a cannonball...

splashing down in the ocean...

with a parachute to spare the life
of the "specimen" inside.

Spaceman?

"Specimen."

Well, what kind of "specimen"?

A tough one.

Responsive to orders.

I had in mind a chimp.

"Jimp"?

Well, what the hell is a "jimp"?

A chimp. A chimpanzee, Senator. An ape.

The first American into space
is not going to be a chimpanzee.

Who would you put into space,
Mr. President?

We have film of some people
we think are strong candidates.

We'd like to run it by you
and stimulate some thinking.

These are people we felt
would be excellent in the splashdown.

We like the one on the right.

- No, on the left.
- On the right. Don't embarrass me!

These people are very experienced with
machinery and have their own helmets.

Is that a factor?

As you'll see...

they're quite comfortable
in conditions of flame.

Now this is personnel
who have very well-developed equilibrium.

Good middle ear. Also very nice people.

Very easy to work with.

With some work,
they could be very responsive to orders.

This is my first choice.
The man with the hood.

Since he works without eyesight,
his other senses are sharpened.

In space there'll be little need
for eyeballing at any rate.

The cannonball effect you mentioned...

We were basically thinking about...

putting a couple into orbit.

Possibly adds emotional stability.

This individual combines many
plus factors that we mentioned.

Ease with flames, comfort at heights
and agility in the splashdown phase.

Also, he is available as of the 15th.

I want test pilots!

Test pilots? No, you can't deal with them.

I'm sure we can do better
with another type of man...

any other type of man.

A more manageable type.

It will only complicate things.

With a man we must guarantee
a safe return.

Mr. President, I think
you'd be wise to reconsider.

No, Lyndon.

Test pilots?

We'll be heading for some air bases.

Not just some air bases.

The one with the great test pilots.
There's only one place to go.

I was there once before
and I hoped I'd never have to go back.

It's a god-forsaken spot on the roof
of the high desert in California.

Some kind of prehistoric throwback
of an airfield called Edwards.

They've got a weird, mad-monk squadron.

Living in rat shacks, terrible conditions.

Corrugated tin, bare bones, low rent.

This is the joint they hang out in.

Pancho's Happy Bottom Riding Club.

It's called Happy Bottom Riding Club?

How'd it get a name like that?

Ask Pancho.

- Lock up?
- Yeah.

We're meeting the Liaison Officer.
They are expecting us.

They? Who's "they"?

The best...

Give me that!

- The best test pilots in the world.
- Here?

They got some kind of brotherhood.

They think they got the right stuff.

What stuff? Heroism, bravery?

There any snakes around here?

Yeah. In the bushes.

Heroism and bravery are part of it.
But seems to be more to it.

What do they say it means?

They don't say anything.
They don't talk about it.

They don't talk about it to outsiders?

To each other.

To outsiders they say even less.

Anyway, they're all here.

Including the ace of aces himself.

Who's that?

Yeager.

Never heard of him.

These must be our gentlemen
from Washington...

scouting for astronauts.

Welcome to Edwards.

Scouting for lab rabbits, more likely.

I didn't quite hear you.

I said, "Lab rabbits."

What's that mean?

It means you don't need
honest-to-God pilots.

What you ought to get is a lab rabbit
to curl up in your damn capsule...

with its heart beating...

and a wire up the kazoo.

I don't hold with it.

I don't either.

You want a pilot to be a ballistic missile.

And then splashdown.

Possibly get lost at sea.

There's some things you can't change.

Some peckerwood's
got to take the beast up.

And some peckerwood's got to land it.

And that peckerwood is called a pilot.

You're mighty right.

The boys smell panic in your program.

That's one thing they don't respond to.

Now maybe if we talk privately
to Yeager and some of the other boys...

That's Yeager?

Anybody goes up in the damn thing
is gonna be Spam in a can.

I'll drink to that!

- Yeager doesn't fit the profile.
- Yeager doesn't fit?

He didn't go to college.
We're only taking college personnel.

Forget about Walker and Crossfield
and the other civilian pilots, too.

The security clearance just takes
too long with those people.

Besides, they seem
a little too independent.

You mean for this space race...

you don't want our best pilots?

I didn't say that.

We want the best pilots that we can get.

Y'all want some whiskey?

No, thanks, Fred. Just a little coffee.

- I'd like a Coca-Cola.
- Coke?

In a clean glass.

There's an old saying:
"Never refuse a combat assignment."

Well, there sure is a long line
of shit-hot rocket aces around here.

Hot Dog.

What the hell's "astronaut" mean anyway?

Star voyager.

Star voyager Gus Grissom.

I like the sound of that.

Now your name is?

My name, Jos? Jim?nez.

Who are we gonna get
to take on the Russians?

Have you seen this Jos? Jim?nez?
He's a crack-up.

I am the chief astronaut
of the United States Interplanetary...

My name, Jos? Jim?nez.

Now I see you have some
of your space equipment with you.

What is that called? The crash helmet?

Oh, I hope not.

Get that guy off.

The country's already laughing at us.

This is the show I wanted you to see.

Who, that kid?

Winner of five
Distinguished Flying Crosses...

and holder of the coast-to-coast,
nonstop, supersonic flight record...

from the U.S. Marine Corps...

Major John Glenn!

That guy.

Can you tell us what's that song?

"Straighten Up and Fly Right".

It's "Straighten Up and Fly Right".

He's not dumb.

Major, Eddie here has a little problem
with his girlfriend.

Did you ever have a problem like that
when you were ten?

Yes, I did, Bob.

I liked a girl in my class, but...

the other guys liked her, too,
and she didn't pay attention.

But I kept after her, Eddie.

Did you finally get her to notice you?

Yes, I did.

In fact, I finally got her to marry me.

They love the guy.

Delta Charlie 9, you are clear to land...

at 180 degrees.

Jos? Jim?nez on approach.

My name, Jos? Jim?nez.

Yeah, Shepard, I almost forgot.
You are clear at 180 degrees.

Some boys here want to talk to you
about being an astronaut.

They want to make me an astronaut?
Oh, I hope not.

Are you sure the Navy's got good pilots?

They call them aviators in the Navy.
They say they're better than pilots.

Gentlemen, I'd like you
to meet Alan Shepard.

What?

I'd like you to meet Alan Shepard.

Just the man we came to see.

Well. Pleasure.

You've heard about our project.

We're going up against the Russians.
It's got the highest...

Priority.

It's a hazardous...

undertaking. In fact,
it's extremely hazardous.

It's so hazardous that
if you decide not to volunteer...

it will not be held against you in any way.

- Sounds dangerous.
- It is.

Count me in.

There's nothing to worry about.
Absolutely nothing.

Why are you doing this to me?

I'm afraid there's no simple way
to explain that to you.

Thank you, Number 21.

Number 22, please.

You're gonna love it.

Please. Sit right there.
Put your arm right up here.

Excuse me, are you John Glenn?

Scott Carpenter.

I recognize you from those TV shows.
I like them.

I had a good time doing them.

I guess we're both here
for the same reason.

You know what they've got planned?

No. Let me check it out.

What have you got scheduled?

We're not really free
to reveal all the testing.

I don't get this.

Sending us down here
disguised as civilians.

Come on, Gus, cut it out. What the hell.

Hot Dog, this entire operation's
supposed to be hush-hush.

We got top-secret orders to blend in
with the patients. So shut up.

There might be Russian agents here.

They don't look very Russian to me, Gus.

All we got here is your local gentry, and...

then you got Navy
and Marine pilots over here.

None of these guys is up
to Air Force standards.

I hear they got some 50-some guys
trying out for seven spots.

After they pick us three,
there's only gonna be four spots.

Sounds right to me. Where do we go next?

You go in that door.

Who are you?

My name, Jos? Jim?nez.

You talking to us, buddy?

All Air Force pilots go in that door.

When they all go in...

they all look the same.

But when they all come out...

they all look different.

How's that?

Fellow, I said how's that?

When they all come out...

they all look scared.

Buenos dias, Gonzalez.

Buenos dias yourself.

Would you come this way?

That guy didn't fool me a bit.

That Mexican guy?

That guy's Navy all the way.
There's another swabbo.

I'll open the box a little so you can see.

Don't put your fingers in there.

This thing will bite them off. It's vicious.

Real swabbo sense of humor.

Let's see what there is
to be scared about back here.

The ball must be maintained
in the position between these two lines.

You may begin... now.

The record is 91 seconds.

Ninety-three seconds. Read it and weep.

Terrific, Scott. Darn good!

You were probably
just getting warmed up.

Next time I doubt I'd win.

I don't know about that.

We're competing with Archie and Jughead.

Let me out of here! Let me out!

Gus, I got this whole thing figured out.

The drill here...

Number 3.

The drill here is to see who can drill
the brains out of Nurse Murch.

Nineteen.

You're nuts.

She thinks we're all just
miserable pudknockers.

This is one fighter jock
who is not a miserable pudknocker.

She's a woman,
susceptible to charms like all of the rest.

You want what in there?

Sperm.

What for?

Sperm motility factors.

Yeah, but, Nurse...

how am I supposed to...

The best results seem to be obtained
through fantasization...

accompanied by masturbation,
followed by ejaculation.

That sounds easy enough.

I'll tell you what.

If I get stuck, you mind coming in
and helping me out a little bit?

Please return it to the lab.

Cut out the humming in there.

Okay, knock it off in there.

Okay, Glenn, I know that's you.

Just knock it off,
because I'm trying to concentrate in here.

That was quick.

There's plenty more
where that came from.

You want to see me again?

I'd like to meet your wife.

My wife?

You're married, aren't you?

Yeah, sure, I'm married all right.

Happily?

Yeah. A real stable relationship, too.

I'd like to meet your wife.

You'd like to meet my wife?

Tomorrow.

Tomorrow?

Tomorrow's no good.

Tomorrow.

I need you, Trudy.

I'm talking about a whole new ballgame.

Fresh start.

This astronaut thing is the best way
for us to move up that ladder.

If we play our cards right,
we go all the way to the top.

We? You mean you.

I mean we.

We're a team.

Have I ever let you down?

Yeah.

Who's the best pilot you ever saw?

You're looking at him.

You're all set. I told her you were stable,
well adjusted, attentive, persevering.

- I lied.
- That a girl.

What'd she say?

She laughed.

She knows you too well, Gordo.

Let's face it. Some women
just have a problem with men.

Yeah, I know.

At secret locations throughout America...

fifty-six of our greatest pilots
are at this moment...

vying to be one of the first men
to go into space.

These are the most up-to-date
tests imaginable.

This is the most rigorous physical testing
ever done to human beings.

They're being subjected to every stress
our doctors and engineers can invent.

These men are preparing themselves
for the ordeal of capsule life.

They will be guiding a new machine
through a hostile environment.

They will be faced with emergencies
no man can foresee.

Many are called, but few will be chosen.

These are men who will have to face
any danger for their country.

No individual will have ever been
so adequately prepared for an event.

Each man knows
that whoever survives this competition...

is destined to become
a legend in his own time.

Here, hold this.

And hold this like this.

When the clamp is released,
the balloon inside you deflates.

Deflates? Where's the john?

Two floors up. Gonzalez will take
you there, but wait here with him.

How's it going, Gonzalez?

Faster!

Good day, Commander.

You prick!

Push the button.

Me and my friends think your
Jos? Jim?nez imitation is A-okay.

But what you're doing with it is b-a-d.

You're right, you're absolutely right.

Open!

You ever have any explosions doing this?

All the time. It's a mess.

Tell me something else, Mr. Gonzalez.

How am I doing?

I think you're gonna make it.
I think you're gonna be an astronaut.

After a long...

and unprecedented series of evaluations...

which told our medical scientists...

of their superb adaptability
to their upcoming flight...

it is my pleasure to introduce to you...

seven Americans...

gentlemen all.

Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom!

Leroy G. Cooper!

Donald K. Slayton!

John H. Glenn, Junior!

Malcolm S. Carpenter!

Alan B. Shepard, Junior!

Walter M. Schirra, Junior!

America's Mercury astronauts!

Holy shit!

Smile, Gus. We're heroes.

Yeager ought to see this.

Seven rookies being installed
as the hottest fliers...

and they haven't done a thing
but show up for a press conference.

Following the distribution of the kits,
those of you who have p.m. Deadlines...

you better dash to your phones.

Now we'll have some questions
from the press, please.

I'd like to know
whether your wives and children...

had anything to say about this.

Mine think it's fine.

They're all for it.

I don't think any of us could go on
with something like this...

if we didn't have
pretty good backing at home.

My wife's attitude towards this
has been the same...

as it's been all along through my flying.

If it's what I want to do,
she's behind it.

And, by golly, my kids are, too.
100 percent.

I don't believe this.

But look at them out there.
They're eating it up.

I was brought up believing
that you are placed on Earth...

more or less with a 50-50 proposition.

And this is what I still believe.

We're placed here with certain talents
and capabilities...

and it's up to each one of us
to use those talents as best we can.

And if we use our talents properly...

I think there is a power
greater than us that will place...

the opportunities in our way.

When I think of Orville
and Wilbur Wright...

standing on a hill
at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina...

tossing a coin to see which one
would take the first airplane flight...

and then I think of us here today...

I just thank God I live in a country...

where the best and finest in a man
can be brought out.

I'd like to second some of the things
Mr. Glenn has said here today.

And I think that we are all
very, very fortunate...

that we have been,
should we say, "blessed"...

with the talents for something like this.

And I think that we would be most remiss
in our duty indeed...

if we did not volunteer
for something as important as this is...

for our country...

and to the world in general right now.

One of our Air Force boys.

Don't you agree, Deke?

I agree absolutely with Gordo.

But I don't think
we're not saying anything new here.

I think we're just saying
the same things...

that need to be said again
and again with fierce conviction.

Can you tell us if any of you
go to church regularly?

As far as church goes...

I attend regularly.

Which one of you will be
the first into space?

The best will be first.

Share it, brother.

Fucking A, bubba.

This is for America's Life magazine.

These are the greatest pilots in America.

How much do they make?

$7,000-$8,000 a year?

- Tops.
- At the most.

With this one deal
I'm giving them $500,000...

split seven ways over three years.

How does that sound?

Now I want them all to meet my people
who will write their true stories.

These stories will appear in Life
under their own by-lines.

For example...

"by Betty Grissom..."

or, "by...

Virgil I. Grissom."

- Or...
- Gus.

What was that?

Gus.

Nobody calls me by that other name.

Gus?

An astronaut named Gus?

What's your middle name?

Ivan.

Maybe...

"Gus" isn't so bad.

Might be something there.

All right, you can be Gus.

I bet for all that money
they could call you Virgil.

They sure could me.

Well, what's with her?

She seems snobby.

I don't get it.

I get it. She's "Mrs. Clean Marine."

I'm going to the Cape tomorrow.

I wish to heck it wasn't off-limits to wives.

There's so much work to do, anyway.
More tests...

training...

studying.

What about after?

After hours I'll run a lot.

I'm going to get up to five miles a day.

There's a beautiful, long beach there.

It's called Cocoa Beach.

You can run forever.

Scott Carpenter will run with me.

He's a good guy.

He's real philosophical.

What about...

The others want to get the job done and
keep the Mickey Mouse to a minimum.

They're good men.

Good men.

They'll give 100 percent
when the time comes.

Guess they think I'm kind of a...

gung-ho type.

"Eddie Attaboy."

"Harry Hair-shirt."

What, you agree?

You agree?

My own wife.

Do you think I'm a "Dudley Do-right"?

That's me, I guess.

A Ionely beacon of restraint...

and self-sacrifice in a squall of car-crazies.

It's important to America
to get a man up there first.

I plan to be the first man
to ride the rocket.

Four, three, two, one. Ignition.

What is the most important thing
in rocket travel?

To me the most important thing...

is the blast-off.

I always take a blast before I take off.

Otherwise I wouldn't go near that thing.

He loves Ed Sullivan.

Four down, three to go.

I don't want anything to put this program
in a bad light.

We have the opportunity of a lifetime
and I'm sorry, but I won't stand by...

and let other people compromise
the whole darned thing!

You know and I know this could lead
to something very unfortunate.

I'm talking about the playing around
that's going on.

I'm talking about the young girls.

I'm talking about the cookies.

I'm talking about keeping our pants zipped
and our wicks dry.

Mr. Glenn, you are way out of line.

I advise you not to try to foist your
moral views on anyone else in this group.

Each man here has volunteered
to do a job.

Each man is devoting long hours
of training...

and doing many things
above and beyond the call of duty...

such as morale tours of factories...

Such as bringing girls up to your room?

And forgoing any orderly family life.

Mr. Glenn, as long as
a man uses good sense...

what he does with his wick
is his own business!

I'm from Life magazine.
I'm not with these people.

You can't go in.
They're discussing scientific problems.

John's right. Whether we like it or not
we're public figures.

Whether we deserve it or not,
people look up to us.

We have a tremendous responsibility.

You can't tell a pilot what to do
when he's not flying.

Wait a minute. You got it all wrong.

The issue here ain't pussy.

The issue here is monkey.

- What?
- Us. We are the monkey.

What Gus is saying is
that we're missing the point.

Gus is saying that we all heard rumors
they want to send a monkey up first.

None of us wants them to send
a monkey up to do a man's work.

What Gus is saying is that...

what they're trying to do to us
is send a man up to do a monkey's work.

Us. A bunch of
college-trained chimpanzees.

What Gus is saying is that
we've got to change things around here.

He's saying that we are pilots.

We know more about what we need
to fly than anybody else.

So what we have to do
is alter the experiment.

It comes down to who is going
to control this thing from here on.

What Gus is saying here is
that we've got to stick together on this.

These tests were designed...

to decondition, to desensitize...

to adapt out fears.

Since we have developed
a fully automated vehicle...

all we seek from the occupants...

of the capsule is data.

The so-called astronaut...

would merely be a redundant component.

And here you can see...

these chimps are capable of many
of the same tasks as men.

And they are much more cooperative.

They are being put through every phase
of the astronaut training.

As far as we are concerned,
the question still remains:

Which one will be first?

The man or...

the monkey?

We shall see.

Take it easy with that.

- Where are you putting the window?
- Window?

There is no window.

No window?

What about the hatch?

We need a hatch with explosive bolts,
that we can open ourselves.

There's something you don't understand.

This is the final form of the capsule.

No hatch.

What would happen
if the automatic controls went out?

With backups, checks,
this would not happen.

I said, what would happen if it did?

The pilot would have to fly it back.

This is the way it is.

I wonder how the press
will feel about this.

The press? What does the press
have to say about this?

Do you boys know
what makes this bird go up?

Funding makes this bird go up.

That's right. No bucks...

no Buck Rogers.

And the press over there...

They all want to see Buck Rogers.

And that's us.

Buck Rogers.

You see, those fellows over there
have been making us out...

as the seven finest and bravest pilots
in all America.

If the story would come out in the press...

that we are not allowed to fly as pilots...

We want a window.

There could maybe be...

in future capsules a window...

here.

No, that's where the hatch
with explosive bolts goes.

The hatch with the explosive...

There could be a hatch
with explosive bolts on the capsule.

That is a spacecraft, sir.

We do not refer to it as a "capsule".

Spacecraft.

A hatch with explosive bolts on the...

spacecraft.

And there will be pitch and yaw thrusters
to enable the occupant...

The pilot.

Astronaut-pilot?

The astronaut...

pilot...

to have some...

To have...

control...

of the re-entry procedures.

We appreciate it.

You wouldn't mind if we had the press
take a few photos of us, would you?

Which one of you is going to be
the first one to be launched into space?

Here he is.

Captain Ham.

Grinning like a possum
eating a sweet potato.

Does he look like the kind of guy
who'd put doo-doo in the capsule?

Ham in a can.

America's first astronaut. Look at him!

You take a monkey like this,
you can make him a democrat, a politician.

I think he's better looking than Crossfield.

How would you like to go up
with this guy as your copilot?

They've got a man up there. It's Gagarin.

We know. Sit down.

All right, give them a break.

Is it true you were ready to go
and the flight was cancelled?

Is it true we could've beaten the Russians?

Why didn't we send a man up
instead of a monkey?

I think we ought to be...

forthright, gracious,
and magnanimous and say...

the Russians beat the pants off us.

No sense in kidding ourselves about it.

But the space age has begun,
and there's plenty of work.

Who will be the second man in space?

You mean who will be
the first free man into space?

We know it'll be Glenn. Just tell us when.

That's a secret.

I'm tired of being "forthright,
gracious, and magnanimous."

I'm tired of stupid questions
from the press.

I'm tired of smocks,
of engineers telling us what we can't do.

I'm tired of everybody saying
we are not pilots.

I'm tired of monkeys.

Most of all, I'm sick and tired
of being second to those...

those darned Russians. It's time we...

Got someone up there!

Fucking A, bubba.

- Exactly.
- Let's talk to them.

Let's get this thing on the road.

I'm tired of messing around.

We'll just tell 'em we're ready.
We're ready to go.

In these three weeks since the Russian
Gagarin's flight surprised everybody...

one wretched event has followed another.

People have begun to say
our rockets always blow up...

our boys always botch it.

Some say this is not the time to try
desperate deeds to beat the Soviets.

The question really is:

Are we actually ready
to launch a man into space?

And yet out here at this very moment
sits a rocket, waiting in the night.

Soon, one American astronaut
will climb atop that rocket...

in what may be the greatest
death-defying stunt ever broadcast.

The identity of America's first astronaut
has been kept a secret...

until almost the final moment.

The question everyone has asked is:
Which one will be first?

Not very funny, John.

But I do appreciate it, John.

I surely do.

Vaya con Dios, Jos?.

Dear Lord, please don't let me fuck up.

I didn't quite copy that. Say again, please.

I said, everything's A-okay.

Well, that's what I thought you said.

He said everything is A-okay.

He says everything is A-okay.
And there you have it.

Roger. Auto retro-jettison switch.

Retro-heater switch... off.

Retro-heater switch... off.

Landing-bag switch... auto.

Roger. Landing-bag switch... auto.

This is it, ladies. This is for Life magazine.

My God! They're going
after the diaper-service man.

Stop that! Stop it!

We don't have a diaper-service man.

Get back from the door.
I don't know them, really.

Oh, Louise, your lawn!

Leave those diapers alone!

Shut that door!

Why are they here?

What do they want?

We are here live at the house
of Louise Shepard...

wife of Astronaut Al Shepard,
who is about to go into space.

Wanted to keep you informed,
Mrs. Shepard.

Everything's A-okay.
Nothing to worry about.

Just some delays.

What kind of delays?

There's another hold from NASA,
another delay.

And Alan Shepard sits there
patiently waiting.

What can be going through
a man's mind at this moment?

I have to urinate.

Urinate?

Urinate? No. We did not think of that.

This is only a 15-minute flight.

The man's been up there for hours.

Could he do it in his suit?

It might be dangerous.
To introduce liquid...

into the pure oxygen of the capsule
and the pressure suit...

might cause a short circuit.
It could start a fire.

No. Tell him he cannot.

Listen, old buddy, they promise
we'll stop at the next gas station.

Request that you remain
in a holding pattern till then.

- You sure you just want a little smidgen?
- About a half a cup.

- And nothing in it?
- That's fine.

All right.

Alan had four cups of coffee
before he went to work this morning.

All this waiting is driving me crazy.

I had a little accident.

Request permission to relieve bladder.

Look, the man has got to go.

It's either that or we get the lug wrench
and pry him out.

Do it in the suit.

Jos?, permission granted...

to wet your diapers anytime, son.

Suit thermometer says
Freon flow jumping from 30 to 45.

Left lower-chest sensor.

No short-out. Moving up back.

Well...

I'm a wetback now.

It is questionable if we can proceed.

I'm cooler than you are. Why don't you
fix your problems and light this candle!

He's right! Let's light this candle!

He surely is! Light the candle!

Resume the countdown.

All systems go.

T minus ten seconds...

nine, eight, seven...

Ignition.

You're on your way, Jos?.

We have liftoff, and the clock is operating.

I think we'll be able to talk
to one of the astronauts' wives...

if not to Louise Shepard herself.

He has re-entered the Earth's atmosphere
and the g-forces should be building up.

Louise, he's coming down!

We almost missed this.

Eight.

That's nine.

I'm okay!

The Vice President,
who is Chairman of our Space Council...

and who bears great responsibilities
in this field...

the members of the House and Senate...

Space Committee,
who are here today to award you...

this decoration,
which has gone from the ground up.

What was Jackie like?

She's very nice.

We talked about all kinds of things.

My Gus goes up next.

I can't wait to talk to Jackie after that.

You'll love her. She's so nice.
We talked about the kids.

Mr. Shepard, sign here.

I never realized...

a gruff, mean son of a bitch like you
could be so popular.

How'd you get to go up before me?

Even before "Mr. Clean, the Marine".

Charm, Hot Dog. Pure charm.

Watch this.

Hey, sis, how are you doing?

So-so. How are you doing?

I ain't doing anymore.

Damn thing's dragging in the mud,
and I can't get it up.

Charm, Gus, that's pure charm.

How'd you like one of these?

I can get one of those from a dime store.

Not one that's been in outer space.

I'm taking these up with me tomorrow.

Would you like a souvenir
after I get written in history?

Well, I might, if it's been in outer space.

See you after outer space.

You got to think ahead to the future.

Folks have a taste for things
that have been there.

I'll give you one of these dimes
I'm taking up so you can play with it...

and dream about outer space.

Why don't you just make sure
you don't screw the pooch?

Oh, God, look at this.

Go get 'em, Deke!

Grissom has just reached the apex
of his flight into outer space...

and will be coming down
with the valuable data...

needed for the future flights
that will actually orbit the Earth.

He will be re-entering
the atmosphere now.

Liberty Bell 7, Liberty Bell 7,
this is Hunt Club 1. Over.

We're in orbit at this time
around the capsule.

Are you ready to come in
and hook on anytime?

Roger. This is Hunt Club 1...

waiting for your okay
to come in and hook on.

Roger. I've unplugged my suit,
so I'm kind of warm now.

Hunt Club 1. Roger.

One, roger.

Roger. Blow the hatch after we hook on.

All right, get ready.
Another 15 feet to the right.

If you're ready for me to blow the hatch...

I'll take my helmet off.

Say again, Liberty Bell.

Waiting for your okay to hook on.

Who designed this?

Say again, Liberty Bell.
We can't hear you.

I can't get it off.

Liberty Bell, say again.

This is Hunt Club 1, waiting for your okay.

What happened?

It's all right. He's okay. Go for the capsule.

Help, I'm sinking!

Get the capsule. He can float in that suit.

We need the data in the capsule.

Throw down a line!

Help! Throw down the line!

I'm sinking!

Forget the fucking capsule!

We can't pull it. It's full of water.

Help me over here!

We've lost it!

Blow the cable!

Come back here, damn it!

Throw a line down.

I didn't do anything.

I was just lying there.

It just blew.

The hatch just blew.

It must have been a technical malfunction.

The capsule was rocking around a bit.

There were no loose items. I don't see
how I could have hit that button.

I was just lying there, flat on my back...

and it just blew.

Well, what do you think?

Explosive hatches have been
on jet fighters for ten years.

The things have been wrung inside out...

subjected to trial by heat,
by water, by shaking, pounding.

We even drop them from a height
of 100 feet onto concrete...

and not one of them
has ever "just blown."

- Are we going to the White House?
- No.

Isn't the President coming?

No ticker-tape parade in New York?

Not even one in Mitchell, Indiana?

No Jackie?

By order of the President
of the United States...

the Distinguished Service Medal...

is awarded to Captain Virgil I. Grissom...

who distinguished himself by valor
above and beyond the call of duty.

These actions...

reflect great credit upon himself...

the Air Force...

and the United States of America.

You proud, boys?

Look, they filled up the refrigerator.

Pretty good?

Pretty good.

A full refrigerator!

I can see this afternoon
is shaping up just great!

And the rest of the day. Tomorrow, too!

What do they want me to do in here?

Cook?

Then risk my life and my kids'...

by dragging them across that highway
to the worst beach in Florida!

Oh, Gus, I wanted to eat
in the White House.

I wanted to talk to Jackie about...

things.

Well, look, I've got to go
to the Holiday Inn for some...

beer call with the guys.

All those years of test flying...

and all those times I waited
and all those times you weren't there!

The military promised...

and now they are welshing
on that damn compact.

Look, I am finally
"Mrs. Honorable Astronaut".

But they are treating me like I'm...

Honorable
"Mrs. Squirming Hatch Blower!"

I didn't do anything wrong!

The hatch just blew! It was a glitch!
It was a technical malfunction!

Why in hell won't anyone believe me?

I know that.

Gus, I mean are these the goodies?

Is this how the military pays off?

Oh, Gus, they owe you.

But they owe me, too.

They owe me.

They owe me, they owe me so much!

I love you.

We are here with Virgil I. Grissom
and his lovely wife, Betty.

Gus has just come back
from the second trip in space.

Betty, how do you feel about this trip?

I'm so proud of him.

I think he was wonderful.

We're all proud of Gus Grissom.

Gus, how do you feel about the trip?
Was it a success?

It was A-okay.

My God. He lost his capsule
but he's keeping his story.

To recap yesterday's dramatic events...

here we see America's
newest hero, Gus Grissom.

- He is shouting to save the capsule first.
- That a boy, Gus.

Pull that stuff in flight test,
it's all over, friend.

He screwed the pooch, partner.
Plain and simple.

Sometimes you get a pooch
that can't be screwed.

The President's got his own problems
with the Bay of Pigs.

He doesn't want
the astronauts' image tarnished.

Nothing these guys do
is going to be called a failure.

These astronauts are our Davids.

You'd think the public would know they're
just doing what monkeys have done.

You think a monkey knows he's sitting
on a rocket that might explode?

These astronauts know that.

I'll tell you something.

It takes a special man to volunteer
for a suicide mission.

Especially when it's on TV.

Old Gus, he did all right.

Though the capsule was lost,
our new hero...

Astronaut Gus Grissom, was saved.

Now President Kennedy has started
an even more ambitious space program.

Those who came before us...

made certain this country...

rode the first waves
of the industrial revolution...

the first waves of modern invention...

and the first wave of nuclear power.

And this generation does not intend...

to founder in the backwash...

of the coming age of space.
We mean to be a part of it.

We mean to lead it.

You know, I always hated flying.

When I met you, you were already a pilot,
so I never had a complaint coming.

When you went up in those planes,
me and the kids...

We never had any insurance
except a couple months' pay.

I always hated all that talk
about insurance.

The government spends
all kinds of time and money...

teaching pilots how to be fearless.

But they don't spend a penny
teaching you how to be...

the fearless wife of a test pilot.

But I guess I liked it.

I guess I liked the kind of man who could...

push the outside of the envelope.

Flyboy.

But I never could stand a man
who was one of those "remember-whens".

Those bitter guys that just sit around
thinking about old times.

If I ever see that happen...

I'm going right out the front door.

And you'll never catch me.

I'm a fearless man,
but I'm scared to death of you.

No, you're not.

But you ought to be.

Annie, what is it?

- Yeah?
- John, the Russians have sent Titov up.

Titov's up.

- How long?
- A day.

A day? A whole day?

- He's orbiting over our country right now.
- He's up there now.

We need a man in orbit, John,
or it's all over.

We're scrapping the Redstone
and going with the Atlas.

You know what that means.

We haven't had too much luck
with that rocket.

We're not going to be able to take
all the precautions we'd like.

- It's going to be extremely dangerous.
- We're ready.

I said it's going to be
extremely dangerous.

- I said we're ready. 100 percent.
- Thank you, John.

Inside this trim,
modest suburban home is Annie Glenn...

wife of Astronaut John Glenn...

sharing the anxiety and pride
of the world at this tense moment...

but in a private and crucial way
that only she can understand.

The Vice President would like
to see Mrs. Glenn.

He's asking for you again.

Tell them no.

I'm sorry, she says no.

You don't understand. It is very important.

The Vice President must see her.

We are told after the mission's success...

the Vice President will come here
and speak with Annie Glenn.

Meanwhile, John Glenn waits
for the weather to clear...

so he can undertake this historic mission.

You know what the Russians want?

They want our peckers in their pockets.

She still says no.

Didn't you tell her I'll bring in ABC-TV...

NBC-TV, CBS-TV?

Her words, and mine,
will be heard by millions.

Where are they going?

I think the flight's been cancelled.

Cancelled?

That's perfect.

I will go in and console her
on nationwide TV.

I'll pay her a sympathy call.

The Vice President would like to make
a sympathy call if he could.

- No? What do you mean, "No"?
- I mean, "No."

What do you mean, "No"?

Somebody get NASA on the line.

I'm going to lean on NASA.
I'm going right to the top!

- To the top.
- Damn right!

They better tell her to play ball!

There's a problem with your wife.

- Is it serious?
- We think it is.

There's a phone hookup,
we've got her on it.

Annie?

It's me. Are you all right?

Tell me what's wrong?

Johnson...

wants... me...

on... T... V.

Vice President?

Tell her to let him in with the networks.

It's coverage, you know.

It's important, John.

It means a lot. Go ahead.
That's it.

Annie...

Listen to me.
Are you listening?

If you don't want the Vice President...

or the networks, or anybody else
to come into the house, then that's it!

As far as I'm concerned,
they are not coming in!

And I will back you up 100 percent,
and you tell them that!

I don't want Johnson or the others
to even put a toe in our house.

You tell them that Astronaut John Glenn
told you to say that.

I'll talk to you soon.

You can't do that!

The Vice President's head of the program!

You must think of the program!

You are out of line!

- I'm out of line?
- Yes, sir!

I run the show here.

We'll see about that!

And I'm thinking of changing
the order of flight assignments!

Who will you get?

You heard what he said.

Take it easy, fellows.

Step aside, pal.

Pilots!

Pansies! Cows!

Gladiolas!

Isn't there anybody
who can deal with a housewife?

"Waltzing Matilda",
I thought Hank Williams wrote it.

We don't know who wrote it.

It's Australian, right?

Who are you guys?

We're aborigines.

Who are you?

Me?

I'm an astronaut.

Well, what do you do here, Astronaut?

I'm here because a buddy of mine
is getting ready to...

fly overhead. Up in outer space.

And I'll be talking to him on that dish.

Fly over?

You blokes do that, too?

You do that yourself?

Not me, mate.

See that old bloke there?

He know.

He know the moon.

He know the star.

And he know the Milky Way.

He'll give you a hand.

He know.

We're gonna need all the help we can get.

Stand by for final ten-second count.

The clock is operating.

We're underway!

Good Lord, ride all the way.
Godspeed, John Glenn.

Zero-g, and I feel fine.

The capsule is turning around.

The view is tremendous!

I can see clear back,
a big cloud pattern, towards the Cape.

It's a beautiful sight!

Roger, Friendship 7.
You have a go, at least seven orbits.

Roger, Al. Understand,
go at least seven orbits.

This is Friendship 7.

Speed is 17,500 miles per hour...

and we're moving into night.

Full moon rising.

I can almost touch it.

Friendship 7, come in. Do you read?

Friendship 7, come in, please.

This sure was a short day.

Say again, over, please.

That was the shortest day I've run into.

Kind of passes rapidly?

Yes, sir.

I can see some lights down there
in Australia, Gordo.

Where are they from?

All of Perth and Rockingham
have turned their lights on for you, and...

Well, we have a few other lights
turned on here and there.

They show up very well.

Thank everybody for turning them on,
will you?

We sure will, John. We sure will.

Heading towards daybreak.

Lot of cloud coverage today.

Man, it's beautiful.

Possibly it's the heat shield.

It's loose.

- If it comes off...
- If the heat shield comes off, he'll burn up.

He'll fry when he tries to re-enter.

Muchea, this is Cape.

We're showing some trouble here.

We've got a warning light.
Possibly a loose heat shield.

Check your status lights immediately.

He's coming, mate.

John, can you hear me?

Friendship 7, come in, please.

Let's try something. Anything.

Friendship 7, come in.

This is Friendship 7.
Do you read me? Over.

Wait a second.

I see something strange out here.

My goodness gracious,
what the heck is that?

Sparks and needles of some kind
all over the sky!

This is Friendship 7.
Let me tell you what I'm in up here.

I'm in a mass of very small particles...

that are brilliantly lit up.
Like they're luminescent.

I never saw anything like it.

The whole shower of them
coming by me now.

They're bright-bright yellow.
They swirl around the capsule...

and they're brilliantly lighted.

You don't think these things
could be alive, do you?

I know it sounds ridiculous,
but they look like fireflies or something.

Maybe some Air Force experiment
went amuck or something.

Or our astronomers have been wrong?

Hello, CapCom, do you read me?
This is miraculous!

Could it be those fireflies,
or whatever they are?

Of course not. Fireflies?

Roger, Friendship 7.

Will you correlate the actions of the
particles surrounding your spacecraft...

with the action of your control jets,
do you read, over?

Negative.

I do not think they were coming from
my control jets. That's a negative, over.

I'll tell you
what I'm gonna try to do.

I'm gonna try to get some pictures
of these little guys.

Sounds like a good idea, Friendship 7.

You guys probably think I'm nuts
down there.

They're very beautiful.

They look like fireflies
on a summer night.

They just dance around.

Get out of here!

Get out of here, you gadgets!

Heading into daybreak now. Another day.

Leaving the fireflies behind.

I have no idea what they were.

This is Friendship 7.

That was some night.
That was really exciting.

He's going into his third orbit.

How much longer are you going
to keep him in the dark?

What are we going to tell him?

He's a pilot. You tell him
the condition of his craft.

John Glenn is in his third orbit...

and the flight is going
pretty much as planned.

No human individual has ever been
so well prepared in advance.

So far the keyword
on this textbook flight is "operational".

Everything is A-okay.

We haven't been too lucky
with the Atlas rocket.

Some say we haven't taken all
the safety precautions we'd like to.

Is this true?

No, it's absolutely not true.

The only critical point is the re-entry.

If the capsule is not at the correct angle...

with the blunt end and heat shield down,
it will burn up.

There is only one hope.

It might be possible to leave
the retro-rocket package...

which covers the heat shield, on.

The straps may be strong enough
to hold the heat shield in place.

But if this fails...

John, you're going to
fly-by-wire for re-entry.

We recommend you do the best
you can to keep a zero angle. Over.

Re-entry only three orbits? Over.

That is correct. Over.

Do you have a reason for this? Over.

Not at this time.
This is the judgment of Cape Flight.

Roger.

Do you have a time for going
to jettison retro? Over.

John...

we are not sure your landing bag
is deployed.

We feel it is possible to re-enter
with the retro-package on.

We see no difficulty at this time
with that type of re-entry.

Do you read?

Roger.

Understand.

I'll start lining up as carefully as I can
in a minute.

See whether scanners will pick up
and correct it for good retro-fire attitude.

If not...

I'll correct it myself. Over.

Roger, Friendship 7.

All right, we're lined up.

Here we go.

What's that sound?

Humming. It's him.

It's all right. He does that.

- John...
- He can't hear you.

He's hit the ionization blackout.

No communications are possible
for a few minutes.

Then we'll know.

Friendship 7, this is Cape. Do you read?

Friendship 7...

this is Cape. Do you read?

Friendship 7, this is Cape. Do you read?

Automatic systems are not functioning.
He's in fly-by...

Finally showed up.

The one with the big engine.

Boy, if we'd only had
one of those a few years back.

The bad news is the entire program's
probably going to be scrapped.

From now on, the astronaut boys
in Houston have got the only ticket.

Barring, of course, some unforeseen event.

The Russians set a new record
of 114,000 feet...

going straight off the ground.

Nobody cares about
that kind of record anymore.

All they want now
is capsules up in outer space.

I get a feeling this plane might be able
to beat that Russian record.

You might be right.

And here they come!

Looky here what I brought you!

Mr. and Mrs. John Glenn.

Alan Shepard.

Gus Grissom.

Scott Carpenter.

Deke Slayton.

Wally Schirra.

Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Cooper.

Smile, hon.

My fellow citizens...

America's Mercury astronauts!

My friends, welcome to Houston,
your new home.

Your neighbors here and I...
we'd like to give you this little barbecue...

Texas style!

Since you're relocating here,
to show appreciation for all you've done...

Mr. Sharp is contributing the land...

the contractors the homes...

and the department stores,
all the furnishings.

- That's wonderful.
- Thank you.

- Which one are you?
- Shepard.

Which one's Glenn? I want to meet him.

He's over there.

Excuse me.

Excuse me, too.

I'm going to the moon,
I swear to God, I'm on my way.

Hi, little gal.
Damned glad to meet you, too.

I heard an awful lot of good things
about you, gal.

- Howdy.
- How are you?

I want to meet you, too.

Sorry, little lady.

We got it.

Steak. All the trimmings.

Just like Pancho's.

Steak tastes about the same...

only there's a lot
more trimmings now, Gus.

You know, it's funny.

Here I am, I got $25,000 a year
for a magazine contract.

I got a free house with all the furnishings.

Got me a Corvette.

I got a free lunch from one end of America
to the other...

and I ain't even been up there yet.

I noticed that.

Oh, you noticed that?
You noticed I hadn't been up there yet?

They're saving the best for last.

Yeah, I guess so, Hot Dog. I guess so.

Just watch you don't screw the pooch.

We're talking to Gordon Cooper.
He will be the next to orbit the Earth.

Since you're the last of the original seven
and the least well known...

could you begin by telling us
who was the best pilot you ever saw?

Who is the best pilot I ever saw?

Who is the best pilot I ever saw?

I'll tell you.

I've seen a lot of them, and
most of them were pictures on a wall...

Excuse me, what'd you say?

I said, "pictures on a wall,"
back at some place that...

doesn't even exist anymore.

Some of them are...

right here in this room.

And some of them are...

they're still out there somewhere,
doing what they always do.

Going up each day
in a hurtling piece of machinery...

putting their hides out on the line...

hanging it out over the edge...

pushing back the outside
of that envelope and hauling it back.

But there was...

one pilot I once saw who I think
truly did have the right...

How close did you ever come
to not hauling it back?

Who is the best pilot I ever saw?

Well, you're looking at him.

Hey, Ridley!

You got any Beemans?

I might have me a stick.

Loan me some. I'll pay you back later.

Fair enough.

Think I see a plane over here
with my name on it.

Now you're talking.

What's that?

Anyone got clearance?

What kind of a plane is that?

Aircraft on ramp, did you file a flight plan?

Aircraft on ramp, did you file a flight plan?

I'm taking her up to wring her out a bit.
Any objections?

It's Yeager.

No objections.

You are clear to taxi.

He must have clearance. Right?

Yeah. Sure, he must.

It's here someplace.

Now, in honor of...

these, the greatest pilots
in the history of mankind...

it gives me great pleasure, great pride,
to present to you...

Miss Sally Rand!

Stretch it! Stretch it!

You can do it!

Just a little bit more. 104,000, here you go.

Christ Almighty!

Sir, over there.

Is that a man?

Yeah, you're damn right it is!

We hate to disturb you, buddy, but...

we've got a launch.

There's millions of people watching,
and we thought maybe...

Yep. Well, no sweat. Let's go.

I'm ready when you are, John, 100 percent.

Ten, nine...

Go.

Go, Hot Dog, go!

"Up we go into the wild blue yonder."

Thirty seconds and fuel is go,
oxygen is go...

cabin pressure on the top peg.
Altimeter is working.

Have a good ride, buddy. Go!

The sun is coming through the window.

Oh, Lord, what a heavenly light.

The Mercury program was over.

Four years later,
Astronaut Gus Grissom was killed...

along with Astronauts White and Chaffee...

when fire swept through
their Apollo capsule.

But on that glorious day in May, 1963...

Gordo Cooper went higher, farther...

and faster than any other American.

Twenty-two complete orbits
around the world.

He was the last American
ever to go into space alone.

And for a brief moment...

Gordo Cooper became the greatest pilot
anyone had ever seen.

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