Courage is The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
Tom Wolfe's novel The Right Stuff, gives an accurate description into the lives of the first astronauts and rocket-powered aircraft test pilots, from their careers before, during, and after their selection to become astronauts, through to their private home lives. All throughout his book, Wolfe refers to "the right stuff" and "this righteous stuff" without ever saying upfront what "the stuff" really is. I have concluded that throughout the story, "the right stuff" is simply courage. I would personally define courage as: The willingness to put yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. It is never easy to put yourself into a dangerous position, this is because our brain is programmed for survival, but there are ways to better equip our brain so that these situations become less dangerous. A couple of these ways are with our natural instincts and good training.
When you have natural instincts for something, it makes that task easier than for someone who doesn't have the same instincts. There was a good part of Wolfe's book that described how instincts led to Gordon Cooper being selected into the Mercury Program. It was when he was doing the initial interview sessions when the "NASA psychologists were asking candidates about their family lives, Cooper was able to sense the correct answers and describe his family life as terrific, when in fact they were separated". Cooper's natural people person instincts helped him recognize what this line of questioning was about, kept him in the running for an astronaut position-which he later received-and was able to reconcile with his wife so they looked like the model family.
Throughout his book, Wolfe describes training that these men went through. They went through hours of training in simulators, classrooms, centrifuges, and vibrating chairs. You name it; they probably had to go through it during the selection process and training aspects for the job. When Allen Shepard became the first American in space, Wolfe describes his whole flight from the 4 hour plus delay in launch time all the way down to his splash-down in the Atlantic Ocean. While telling this part of his story, Wolfe is always telling about the reference into Shepard's training and comparing it to the actual flight that was taking place, even the humorous instance when Shepard needed to "relieve his bladder". Overall, that flight experience, according to Wolfe, was not as intense as the training that Shepard had gone through. The routine of the training program kept Shepard's mind on the job throughout the flight and allowed him to accomplish the flight tests that he was sent up there to do. He kept going over the program of events in his head knowing exactly how much time he had to accomplish each task before he had to move onto the...