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Flight Plans Newsletter

The Right Stuff Revisited: Project Mercury 50 Years On

John Glenn entering Friendship 7 - Great Images in NASA

Time: Sunday, February 19, 2012 - 2:00pm

Event Type: Public Program

Location: William M. Allen Theater

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of astronaut John Glenn’s historic orbital flight, historian Roger Launius’ presentation will reconsider the Project Mercury space program and the individuals who carried it out. It will relate the origins and execution of this first attempt to reach into space and its meaning after 50 years.

In 1979 author Tom Wolfe redefined the public persona of the first astronauts in his bestselling book, The Right Stuff. His story spanned the period from early high-speed flight immediately after World War II to the end of America’s first human spaceflight program, Project Mercury. Launius will shed some new light on the men who were said to have “the right stuff.”

Roger D. Launius is senior curator in the Division of Space History at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Between 1990 and 2002 he served as chief historian of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Launius has written or edited more than twenty books on aerospace history, including Smithsonian Atlas of Space Exploration; Robots in Space: Technology, Evolution, and Interplanetary Travel; and Space Stations: Base Camps to the Stars. He served as a consultant to the space shuttle Columbia Accident Investigation Board in 2003 and is frequently a commentator on National Public Radio and all the major television network news programs.