The Right Stuff (1983) Script

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, uh, Whiskey Kilo 28, prepare to drop.

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

...lowering and launching now.

Mach 0.92.

Point nine-three.

Point nine-four.

Hit a mild buffet there.

Mach 0.95.

Point nine-six.

Point nine-seven.

Point nine-eight.

Point nine-nine.

Whiskey Kilo 28, do you want to declare an emergency?

Negative. Whiskey Kilo 28 is not declar--


No.

Go away.

No.

Lord, guard and guide the men who fly Through the great spaces In the sky Be with them always In the air In darkening storms Or sunlight fair Oh, hear us When we lift our prayer For those in peril In the air

Amen


Hey, Pancho? Hmm?

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.

Well, Yeager, you old bastard.

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

Get your ass over here and have a drink.

I got you something.

Mm.

Come here.

Look, Slick.

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.

Afternoon.

You get that helmet?

Yeah. You're our first choice.

It might work.

I'll look like the Galloping Ghost.

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?

One hundred and fifty thousand.

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.

Some kind of a war hero.

Shot down five Germans in one day.

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

As press liaison man for the Air Force, I think--

Any problems with him?

Only one. What's that?

Holding him back.

Major.

Yeager. Sir.

We were just talking to, uh, Slick about the sound barrier.

That right?

The X-1 is ready to have a go at it.

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

If there is any beyond.

So, what do you think?

Half these engineers never been off the ground.

They might say the sound barrier's a brick wall.

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

I don't believe the damn thing even exists.

A drink for Mr. Yeager.

No thanks, I got one.

You want to have a go at it?

I might.

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

...how much--

How much you got?

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

Why, sure, Yeager, but--

So when do we go?

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. 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. Come on, baby.

Yeah. Come on. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Come on, come on, come on. Yeah. Go on.

Come on. Glennis! I'm gonna get you!

I'm gonna get you.

Come on back here!

Glennis!

Come on. Come on, come on, come on. Run, run, run. Go on.

Can't hide from me, girl!

Hey! Ha-ha-ha.

Come on, come on.

Come on, tsk, tsk. Hyah, hyah. Come on, come on, come on. Go.

I'm gonna get you now, girl.

Oh. Oh.

Oh, no.


Morning, tiger.

What have you two been up to?

Where's Ridley?

Over there waiting on you.

Ridley.

Can I talk to you?

Morning.

I got a little problem.

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

How bad you dent them?

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? Yeah.

If these guys find out, they'll use somebody else to fly this thing.

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

Mr. Russell?

Can you help me out? It's an 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. Morning, sir.

How are you feeling?

Oh, just about right.

Mrs. Yeager.


There she is, 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.

Whang this in the handle with your good arm.

Okay, thanks buddy.


Pre-drop checklist complete.

Ten, nine...

...eight, seven, six...

...five, four, three, two...

...one Drop!

There you go.

Put your spurs to her, Chuck.


All right, here we go. Mach 0.91.

Point nine-two.

Point nine-three.

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.

Point nine-five.

Point nine-six.

More buffeting.

More commotion.

Getting wobbly, here.

Point nine-eight.

She's getting real active.

Point nine-nine.

What's that sound?

Oh, God.

He bought the farm.

We're back to square one.

Wait.

Ridley, make another note.

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. What?

No word of this goes out.

This is big news. We need coverage of this.

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!

You'll fly more planes for us.

We want you to fly all our planes!

What you been doing, hedgehopping?


Word will get out. Maybe not to the press or the general public.

But soon, every fighterjock, 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.

I got a rocket in my pocket And a roll in my walk

So, baby, don't fuss me With that north 40 talk Edwards Air Force Base. This is the place to be.

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

Hey. Hey. Down.

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 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?

Huh?

Who's the best pilot you ever saw?

You're looking at him, baby.

Come on, cheer up.

Hey, have I ever let you down?


Gordo.

God.


Oh, hear us When we lift our prayer For those in peril In the air


Hi there, pops.

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 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 howl used to wax your tail.

Wax my tail?

Yeah.

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.

Soon you'll even immortalize us...

...by putting our pictures up there on your wall.

Did I say something wrong?

We got two categories of pilots around here.

Your prime pilots that get all the hot planes.

And 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.

Not the machine, 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 only I had 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 my friends talked about 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, when their husband went 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.

BETTY Men...

Sometimes they're just such assholes.

Sometimes they sure are handy assholes, though.

Yeah, sometimes...

Sometimes.

Hey, honey.

You want a hot dog?

I'm leaving, Gordo.

You guys ready for hot dogs. The buns ready.

Look at that.

Yeah, that's the D-558 Phase 2.

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.

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

...another historic flight takes place, as Scott Crossfield streaks...

...across the skies over the California desen'.

Mach 2.

Almost 1500 miles per hour...

...and a new world's record.

It's a field day for the press.

Congratulations 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.

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.

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 makes your rocket ships go up?

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

Funding. That's what makes them 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.

When an old friend I happened to see I introduced her to my loved one And while they were dancin'

My friend stole my sweetheart from me

I remember the night 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.

Yes, I lost my little darlin'

The night they were playing The beautiful Tennessee waltz


You got any Beemans?

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

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.

Three, two, one, drop.

Number 3 coming on.

Got seven seconds on 150 right now.

I've got you in sight.

Going out of sight...

...now.

Mach 1.

Number 4.

Here goes Mach 2.

Two-point-one.

Sorry, Scotty.

Hey, Chuck, you got her now, buddy.

You can ease it back.

Bring it on in.

I'm pushing the envelope.

See where that demon lives.


Come in, Chuck.

Say again. Do you read?

Damn! He's uncorked it.

Mayday! Mayday!

Alert all ground crews.

Talk to me!

Come in!

Can you read me?

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 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?

We're ready.

Is there a loose plug there?

Here it is. I'll get it.

Senator Johnson's right. This is Armageddon.

The decisive battle between good and evil.

It's a struggle for survival.

There you go. Thank you.

This footage was assembled from sources operating under deep cover at, uh, great risk.

Very great.

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

This is secret footage...

...of the Korabl rocket and the German scientists they captured after the war.

Was it their German scientists got them up first?

No. No it was not, senator.

Our Germans are better than theirs.

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

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.

Isn't that their chief designer?

We know very little about him.

Let us see him again.

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

...and he is 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!

Drapes, please.

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

...if we had been allowed.

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 Dot?

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 "jimp."

Jimp? Well, what the hell is a jimp?

A chimp. A chimpanzee, senator. An ape.

The first American in 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 and stimulate some thinking.

May we? Okay.

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

We like the one on the right.

No, on the left.

These people are 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, uh, this is, uh, 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're thinking about...

...putting a couple into orbit. Adds emotional stability.

This individual has many plus factors.

Ease with flames, comfort at heights...

...and, uh, agility in the splashdown. Also, he is available on the 15th.

No. No, no.

I want 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. 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.

A prehistoric throwback of an airfield called Edwards.

They've got a weird mad-monk squadron.

They live in rat shacks, terrible conditions.

Corrugated tin, bare bones, low rent.

This is where they hang out.

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.

Who's "they"?

The best--

Give me that.

The best test pilots in the world.

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, uh, there's more to it.

What do they say it means?

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

They don't talk to outsiders?

To each other. To outsiders they say even less.

Anyway, they're all here, including the, uh, 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 hear you.

I said "lab rabbits."

What's that mean?

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

You need a lab rabbit to curl up in your capsule...

...with its heart beating...

...and wire up the kazoo.

I don't hold with it.

I don't either.

You want a pilot to be a ballistic missile, then splash down.

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--

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

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.

Hey.

Y'all want some whiskey?

No, thanks, Fred. Just a little coffee.

I'd like a Coca-Cola. Coke?

Mm-hm. In a clean glass.

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

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

Hey, 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, José Jimenez.

Who are we gonna get to take on the Russians?

Have you seen this Jose Jimenez? He's a crack-up.

I am the chief astronaut of the United States interplan-

My name, José Jimenez.

I see you have your space equipment with you.

Is that the crash helmet?

Oh, I hope not-

Get that guy off.

The country's already laughing at us.

Eddie Hodges.

This is the show I wanted you to see.

Who, that kid?

And his partner...

...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.

Okay. Okay.

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 10?

Yes, I did, Bob.

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

...other guys liked her 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.

Mm-hm.

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

...at 180 degrees.

José Jimenez on approach.

Say again.

My name, José Jimenez.

Yeah, Shepard, I 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?

The Navy calls them aviators. They say they're better than pilots.

I'd like you to meet Alan Shepard.

What? I'd like you to meet Alan Shepard.

Just who we came to see.

Well, it's a 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. It's extremely hazardous.

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

...it will not be held against you.

Sounds dangerous.

It is. Very. It's very dangerous.

Count me in.

There's nothing to worry about. Absolutely nothing.

Mm. Ugh.

Why are you doing this to me?

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

It's nothing to worry about.


Thank you, Number 21.

Hmm?

Number 22, please.

You're gonna love it.

Please, sit right there. Put your arm right up here.

Excuse me, you John Glenn?

Yes.

Scott Carpenter. Hi.

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

I had a good time doing them.

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

Yeah.

You know what they've got planned?

Uh, no. Let me check it out. Okay.

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...?

This entire operation's supposed to be hush-hush.

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

Might be Russian agents here.

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

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

...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, José Jimenez.

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, yourself.

Oh, there you are. 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.

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.


Ha!

Ninety-three seconds. Read it and weep.


Terrific, Scott. Darn good!

You were probably just getting warmed up.

Next time I doubt I'll win.

I don't know about that.

It's Archie and Jughead.


Let me out! Let me out of here! Let me out! Please. Please. Let me out.

Let me out. Let me out.

Let me out, please. Let me out.

Two-nine.

Gus, I got this whole thing figured out.

The drill here--

Number three.

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 fighterjock who is not a miserable pudknocker.

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

Hi, doc.

You want what in there?

Sperm.

What for?

Sperm motility factors.

Yeah, but, uh, nurse, uh, how am I, uh, supposed to, uh...

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

...accompanied by masturbation, followed by ejaculation.

Mm.

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.

Um...

Yeah.

Oh, God.

Hey, cut out the humming in there.


Great.

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 of that.

You want to see me again?

I'd like to meet your wife.

Uh, my wife?

You're married, aren't you?

Uh, 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?

Um...

Tomorrow's no good.

Tomorrow.

Good golly, Miss Molly

I need you, Trudy.

I'm talking about a whole new ball game.

Fresh start.

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

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

We? You mean you.

I mean we.

We're a team.

Have I ever let you down?

Yeah. Yeah?

Trudy.

Who's the best pilot you ever saw?

Huh?

Huh?

You're looking at him.

I know. I know, I know.

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

I lied. Attagirl.

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 across America...

...56 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...

...and the most rigorous physical testing ever done on humans.

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.

Where's the john?

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

Gonzales.

How's it going, Gonzales?

Gonzales? Hmm.


Faster!

Jesus.

Good day, commander.

You prick.

As you were.

Push the button.

Let's go. Just hold on to this.

Come on, come on, come on.

Jesus. Hurry up.

No, no, no.


You know, Mr. Shepard...

...me and my friends think your José Jimenez imitation...

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

You're right, you're absolutely right.

Open. Open.

Tell me something, Mr. Gonzales.

You ever have any explosions doing this?

All the time. It's a mess.

Mm.

Tell me something else, Mr. Gonzales.

How am I doing?

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

Ladies and gentlemen...

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!

Malcom 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 distribution of the kits, those of you who have p.m. deadlines...

...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.

Mr. Slayton?

Ahem. Uh... Uh...

Mine think it's fine.

Thank you. Mr. Schirra?

They're all for it.

I don't think any of us could do something like this...

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

My wife's attitude has been the same as it's been all 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.

Uh-huh.

I believe you are placed on earth...

...more or less with a fifty-fifty proposition.

This is what I still believe.

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

...and it's up to 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 opportunity in our way.

When I think of Orville and Wilbur Wright...

...standing on a hill at Kitty Hawk...

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

...and then I think of us today...

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

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

I mean it. Thank you.

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

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

...that we have been, uh, 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...

...to our country...

...and to the world in general right now.

One of our Air Force boys.

Don't you agree, Deke?

I absolutely agree with Gordo.

But we're not saying anything new.

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?

Yes.

As far as church goes, I attend regularly.

Uh, 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.

Ah, that's it. That's it.

Mrs. Grissom. Mrs. Grissom.

Good, good, good.

These are the greatest pilots in America.

How much do they make?

Seven, $8000 a year?

Hmm.

With this one deal...

...I'm giving them $500,000 split seven ways over three years.

How's 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."

Gus.

What was that? Gus.

Nobody calls me by that other name.

Gus? An astronaut named Gus?

What's your middle name? lvan.

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. 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.

Hmm.

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 Hairshirt.

What, you agree?

You agree?

My own wife.

Do you think I'm a Dudley Doright?

Do you? Yeah?

That's me, I guess.

A lonely 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.


Nine, eight...

...seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, ignition.


Four, three, two, one, zero.


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 it.

He loves Ed Sullivan.

Ed Sullivan? Oh, yeah. Heh.

I only have eyes For you

You are here And so am I Four down, three to go.

But they all disappear From view

And I only have eyes For you

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

We have the opportunity of a lifetime and I won't stand by and let...

...other people compromise the whole darned thing!

This could lead to something very unfortunate.

What's ticking you off?

I'm talking about playing around.

I'm talking about the young girls...

...the cookies.

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...

...devoting long hours of training...

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

...such as morale tours--

Such as bringing girls up to your room?

And forgoing any orderly family life.

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 science.

John's right.

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 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.

Gus is saying that we're missing the point.

Gus is saying...

...we heard they want to send a monkey up first.

They're sending a monkey up to do a man's work.

Gus is saying...

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

Us. A bunch of college-trained chimpanzees.

Gus is saying...

...we've got to change things. He's saying that we are pilots.

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

What we have to do is alter the experiment.

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

Gus is saying we've got to stick together.


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.

The 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.

For us, the question still remains:

Which one will be first?

The man or...

...the monkey?

We shall see.


Take it easy with that.

Uh, where are you putting the window?

Window? There is no window.

No window?

What about the hatch?

The hatch? Yeah, the hatch.

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

There's something you don't understand. This is the final form of the capsule.

No hatch.

What 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 know what makes this bird go up?

Funding makes this bird go up.

That's right. No bucks, no Buck Rogers.

And, uh, the press over there...

They all want to see Buck Rogers.

And that's us. Buck Rogers.

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 can't 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 to take a few photos of us, would you?

Good idea, John.

Look, Glenn's waving us in. What's your problem, huh?


Which one of you is going to be the first one...

...to be launched into space?

Smile. Okay, that's it.


Here he is.

Captain Ham.

Grinning like a possum eating a sweet potato.

Does he look like he'd put doo-doo in the capsule?

Ham in a can.


Off we go in a wild blue yonder Climbing high into the sun Here they come Zooming to meet our thunder At 'em boys Give 'er the gun


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 canceled?

Could we have 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.

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...

...of people saying we are not pilots. I'm tired of monkeys.

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

Those darned Russians. It's time we--

Got someone up there.

Fucking A, Bubba.

Exactly.

Let's get this thing on the road.

I'm tired of messing around.

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


In these three weeks since Gagarin's surprise flight...

...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 sits a rocket, waiting in the night.

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

...in the greatest death-defying stunt ever broadcast.

The identity of America's first astronaut...

...was not revealed until the final moment, and everyone has asked:

Which one will be first?


Not very funny, John.

No?

But I do appreciate it, John.

I surely do.

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.

All stations...

Roger. Auto retro-jettison switch.

Retro-heater switch, off.

Roger.

Retro-heater switch, off.

Landing-bag switch, auto.

Roger. Landing-bag switch, auto.

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

Louise. My God, they're after the diaper-service man.

Stop that, stop it. Will you quite pushing me? Stop it.

We don't have a diaper-service man.

Get back from the door. I don't know.

Oh, my Lord. Oh, Louise, your lawn!

Leave those diapers alone. Come on.

Shut that door!

Why are they here?

What do they want?

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

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

Yes.

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?

Gordo.

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?

That's 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, 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. Nothing in it?

That's fine. All right.

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

All this waiting is driving me crazy.

I had a little accident.

Request permission to relieve bladder.

Gordo?

Gordo?

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.

José, permission granted...

...to wet your diapers anytime, son.

Mm.

Freon flow jumping from...

...30 to 45.

Left lower chest sensor.

No shortcut. Moving up back.

Well, I'm a wetback now.

It is questionable if we can proceed.

I'm cooler than you are. Fix your problems and light this candle.

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

He surely is. Light the candle.

Yes. Resume the countdown.

All systems go.

T minus 10 seconds...

...nine, eight, seven...

...six, five, four, three, two...

...one. Ignition.

You're on your way, José.

We have liftoff, and the clock is operating.

I think we'll be able to talk...

...to one of the wives, if not to Louise Shepard herself.


Mm.

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.

I'm okay. I'm okay. I'm okay.

I'm okay.


The vice president, who is chairman of our Space Council...

...and who bears responsibilities in this field, and the members of the House and Senate...

...and the Space Committee who are with us today...

...this decoration, which is going from the ground up.


Louise. What was Jackie like?

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.

Oh, Alan, hi. Mr. Shepard.

Mr. Shepard, sign here.

Oh, Gus.

I never realized...

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

How'd you get to go up there 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.

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

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.

All right.

Hey, Hot Dog. Listen.

You got to look to the future.

Folks have a taste for things that have been there.

Right.

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 them, Deke.

Grissom has just reached the apex of his flight.

He will be re-entering the atmosphere now.


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

We're in orbit around the capsule.

Are you ready to come in and hook on?

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.

Waiting for your okay.

What happened?

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

Help, I'm sinking!

He can float in that suit.

We need the data in the capsule.

Throw down a line!

Help! Throw down the line!

Hey, I'm sinking!

Forget the fucking capsule!

MAN 2 We can't pull it. It's full of water.

Hey! Help me over here!

We've lost it.

Blow the cable.

Come back here!

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 the button.

I was just lying there, flat on my back, and it just blew.

Thank you, Mr. Grissom.

Well, what do you think?

Explosive hatches have been on jet fighters for 10 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?

Isn't the president coming?

Gus. Uh...

No ticker-tape parade in New York?

Uh-uh.

Not even one in Mitchell, Indiana?

Nope.

No Jackie? Mm-mm.

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.

Yo, Gus!

Attaboy, Gus.

You proud, boys?

Hey, look. They filled up the refrigerator.

Pretty good, huh?

Pretty good. A full refrigerator!

I can see this afternoon 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 crossing 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.

No!

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.

Oh.

Gus, I mean are these the goodies?

Is this how the military pays off? Huh?

Oh, Gus, they owe you.

But they owe me too.

They owe me.

They owe me. They owe me so much.

Oh, no.


I love you.

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

Uh, Gus has just come back from outer space.

How do you feel about this trip?

I'm so proud of him.

I think he was wonderful.

Uh, we're all proud of Gus Grissom.

Gus, do you feel the trip was a success?

It was A-okay.

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

To recap yesterday's events...

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

He is shouting to save the capsule first.

To pull all that in flight test, it's all over for him.

He screwed the pooch. 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 failure.

These Astronauts are our Davids.

The public knows they're just doing what monkeys have done.

Monkeys?

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.

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, um, "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.


What is it?

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.

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

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

You know we haven't had too much luck with that rocket.

We can't take all the precautions we'd like.

- It'll be dangerous. We're ready.

I said it'll be dangerous.

I said we're ready. One hundred 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.

This is very important. The vice president must see her.

No.

After the mission's success...

...the vice president...

...will 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?

No, sir.

They want our peckers in their pockets.

She still says no. 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?

The flight's been canceled.

Canceled?

That's perfect.

I will go in and console her on nationwide TV.

I'll pay her a sympathy call.

Yes, sir.


The vice president would like to make a sympathy call if he could.

No. No.

No? What do you mean no? I mean no.

What do you mean no?

Get NASA on the line.

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

Right away. To the top.

Damn right. They better tell her to play ball.

Hey, guys.

There's a problem with your wife.

Is it serious? We think it is.

There's a phone hook-up, we've got her on.

Annie?

It's me. Are you all right? What's wrong?

Johnson...

...wants me...

...on TV.

The vice president?

Tell her to let him in with the networks. It's coverage.

It's important, John. It means a lot.

Annie.

Listen to me.

Are you listening?

If you don't want the vice president...

...or the networks, or anyone else in our house, 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. Okay?

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

Okay.

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

- All right? Yes.

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! Yeah?

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

Oh, yeah? Yeah!

Who will you get? Who am I gonna get?

You heard what he said.

Take it easy, fellows.

Step aside.

Pilots.

Pansies! Cows!

Gladiolas!

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

Oh, you'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me And he sang as he watched And waited till his billy boil

I thought Hank Williams wrote "Waltzing Matilda. "

We don't know who wrote it.

It's Australian, right? Yep.

Good day, mate. Hi.

Who are you guys?

We're Aborigines.

Aborigines, eh?

Hi.

Who are you?

Me? I'm an astronaut.

Astronaut. Yeah.

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? Yeah.

You blokes do that too?

Heh. 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 under way.

Good Lord, ride all the way. God speed, John Glenn.


Zero G, and I feel fine.

The capsule is turning around.

Oh!

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.


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?

Hello, Friendship 7?

Friendship 7, come in please.

This sure was a short day.

Say again, please.

That was the shortest day I've run into.

Kind of passes rapidly, huh?

Yes, sir.

I can see lights...

...down there in Australia.

Where are they from?

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

And a few other lights...

...are turned on too.

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.

It's beautiful.

Possibly it's the heat shield.

It's loose.

If it comes off--

He'll burn up.

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

Muchea, this is Cape.

We're showing some trouble.

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

Check your status lights.

He's coming.

John, can you hear me?

Friendship 7, come in, please.

Try something. Anything.

Friendship 7, come in.


This is Friendship 7. Do you read me?

Wait a second.

I see something strange out here.

Oh, my goodness, what the heck is that?

Sparks and needles of some kind all over the sky.

Hey, let me tell you what I'm in up here.

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

...that are brilliantly lit up. They're luminescent.

I never saw anything like it.

A shower of them coming by now.

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

...and they're brilliantly lighted.

Do you think they could be alive?

It sounds ridiculous, but they look like fireflies.

Heh, heh. Whoa.

Whoa. Maybe some Air Force experiment went amuck.

Could our astronomers have been wrong?

Hello, Cap Com, do you read me? This is miraculous.

Could it be those fireflies, or whatever they are?

Of course not. Fireflies?

Hello, Cap Com?

Roger, Friendship 7.

Will you correlate the actions of the particles...

...with that of your control jets?

Uh, negative.

I do not think they were coming from my control jets.

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

Sounds like a good idea.

You guys probably think I'm nuts.

They're very beautiful.

Like fireflies on a summer night.

They just dance around. Ha-ha-ha.


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. Do you read me?

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 do we tell him?

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

Glenn is in his third orbit...

...and the flight is going pretty much as planned.

No human individual...

...has ever been so well-prepared.

So far the key word on this textbook flight is "operational. "

Everything is A-okay.

We haven't been 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.

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?

That is correct.

Do you have a reason for this?

Uh, not at this time. This is the judgment of Cape Flight.

Roger.

Uh, do you have a time for going to jettison retro? Over.

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 with that type of re-entry.

Do you read?

Roger.

Understand.

I'll line up as carefully as I can in a minute.

See if scanners will pick it up and correct retro-fire attitude.

Uh, if not, I'll correct it myself. Over.

Roger, Friendship 7.

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 in the ionization blackout.

No communications are possible for a few minutes.

Then we'll know.

Friendship 7, this is Cape. Do you read?

This is Cape. Do you read?

Friendship 7, this is Cape. Do you read?

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


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.

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.

Mrs. Gordon Cooper.

Smile, hon.

My fellow citizens...

...America's Mercury Astronauts.

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 our appreciation for all you've done...

...Mr. Sharp is contributing the land...

...the contractors, the homes...

...and department stores, the furnishings.

Oh. That's wonderful.

Which one are you? Shepard.

Oh, yeah? Mm-hm.

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

He's over there.

Excuse me.

Excuse me. Excuse me.

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

I mean it.

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

I heard an awful lot of good things about you gals.

John Glenn.

Howdy.

Oh, yeah. I wanna meet you too.

Ha-ha-ha. Whoa. 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...

...got a free house with all the furnishings, got me a Corvette...

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

...and I ain't even been up there yet.

I 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.

Uh-oh.

Mr. Cooper.

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's 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--

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 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, uh, 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, uh, you're looking at him.

Hey, Ridley?

Yeah?

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.

Hey, what's that?

Anyone got clearance?

What kind of a plane is that?

Aircraft on ramp, did you file a flight plan?

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.


Uh, Gordo.

Gordo!

Ah.

Uh-huh?

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

...we've got a launch.

Uh-huh.

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

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

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

Okay.

Tminus 10, nine...

...eight, seven, six, five...

...four, three, two, one.


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...

...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