The Right Stuff

New this month Factual error: An external shot of the Mercury MA-9 mission, Faith 7, shows a porthole. A porthole was only used in the first spacecraft, the MR-3 spacecraft, Freedom 7. Then an internal shot shows a proper, rectangular window, as used in all other Mercury missions. (03:04:00)

Factual error: The first supersonic flight of the Bell X1 was flown in total secrecy. The news of the flight was not even released to the press until January 1948, three months after Yeager broke the sound barrier. Yeager's wife and the owner of the local bar were most certainly not present.

Factual error: In the Vostok launch clip, it shows Yuri Gagarin lifting off at night. The actual liftoff occurred during the day, at 9:07 AM (Moscow Time). Plus the rocket shown in the launch clip isn't even a Vostok rocket, it's a later variant used by the current Soyuz spacecraft. (Evident by the color, and on the top of the rocket is a Soyuz escape system). (01:43:50)

Factual error: At the scene describing the test flights of the Bell X-1, they show a flight that ends with the crash of the plane. This is completely untrue. There was no such crash of any Bell X-1 plane prior to the record breaking flight by Chuck Yaeger on October 14, 1947. There were 3 Bell X-1 planes built. The first is the famous record breaker plane. It was retired on May 12, 1950. It is on display in the Air National Museum in Washington DC. The second flew until October 23 1951 when it was rebuilt as X-1E. The third X-1 started flights only on July 1951 and blew-up on the ground on November 9, 1951.

Factual error: During the sequence of rocket malfunctions, the very last malfunction actually happened, but it is shown incorrectly. In the movie, an Atlas rocket refuses to launch, and the Mercury capsule atop it ejects its parachute with a champagne-cork pop. The real malfunction occurred during an early unmanned Mercury test flight, using a Redstone rocket. Instead of the rocket lifting off as planned, the Mercury capsule's launch escape tower fired, leaving both rocket and spacecraft on the pad. The capsule's parachute did eject, and threatened to pull the rocket off the pad.

Factual error: The story line suggests that Yeager broke the sound barrier on his first flight in the X1. In fact it was only after a series of flights that edged the speed up gradually that Yeager exceeded Mach 1.

Factual error: After Shepard lifts off the pad on his Redstone rocket, most of the stock footage actually shows an Atlas rocket.


Factual error: When Vice President Lyndon Johnson is in a Lincoln Continental limousine while attempting to visit John Glenn's wife during a launch delay, the date shown at the beginning of the scene is Feb 1962, which is correct. During the scene as Glenn's wife is refusing the visit the front end of a 1965 Lincoln Continental is shown.

Mark Kesner

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