The stars of National Geographic's upcoming "The Right Stuff" have now experienced some of the real stuff.
Cast members from the new television series had the chance recently to climb in and around supersonic jets at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida as they prepared to portray the space agency's original Mercury 7 astronauts. "The Right Stuff" is based on Tom Wolfe's 1979 book by the same title, which chronicled the United States' first human spaceflight program and was the basis for the 1983 film directed by Philip Kaufman.
National Geographic's first trailer for the series shows the actors at the Cape on July 16, the 50th anniversary of the launch of the first moon landing.
"What we did today was try to give our actors exposure to the real world of experimental flight test. It's impressive when a production knows how important it is to get this type of hands-on exposure," said Dave Kennedy, a retired Navy test pilot who previously served as a technical advisor for ABC's "The Astronaut Wives Club," among other television projects and movies.
Co-produced by Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way and Warner Horizon Scripted Television, "The Right Stuff" features actors Patrick Adams ("Suits") and Jake McDorman ("What We Do in the Shadows") as John Glenn and Alan Shepard, respectively. The series' other Mercury astronauts include Colin O'Donoghue ("Once Upon a Time") as Gordon Cooper, Michael Trotter ("Underground") as Gus Grissom, James Lafferty ("Castle Rock") as Scott Carpenter, Aaron Staton ("Narcos: Mexico") as Wally Schirra and Micah Stock ("Escape at Dannemora") as Deke Slayton.
The featurette shows Adams, McDorman and other cast members at the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) Hangar located at one end of Space Florida's Launch and Landing Facility (previously NASA's Shuttle Landing Facility). The hangar is home to Starfighters, Inc., which operates a private fleet of flight-ready F-104 supersonic jet aircraft.
"We gave them a chance to put one of the anti-g suits on, strap in [and] close the canopy," said Bill Warlick, a former Navy test pilot. "Several of the actors were able to put a helmet and an oxygen mask on to help give them some insight into the life of a test pilot."
The first season of "The Right Stuff" takes place at the height of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union is leading in the space race with the United States. "Seven individuals, known as the Mercury 7, are plucked from obscurity and soon forged into heroes long before they have achieved a single heroic act. Within the heart of this historic drama that's populated by deeply human characters, two arch rivals — John Glenn and Alan Shepard — jockey to be the first in space," reads a National Geographic synopsis.
The trailer reveals that the series will include more than just the story of the seven men. Actress Shannon Lucio is also seen in the video suiting up and climbing into the cockpit of one of the jets.
"We hope in telling the story of the Mercury astronauts and the 'Mercury 13' women, we can shine a light toward the future," said Mark Lafferty, executive producer and showrunner, referencing the women pilots who underwent some of the same medical testings as the first NASA astronauts. "Any good story isn't just applicable to the time in which it takes place."
"Innovation, aspiration — that is a big part of why we want to tell this story now," said Lafferty.
Click through to collectPACE to watch the first trailer for National Geographic's "The Right Stuff" television series.
- The Right Stuff: Book Portrays Most Influential People in Space
- Why Next-Generation Astronauts Will Need the 'New Right Stuff' for Space Travel
- How Tom Wolfe, Who Wrote 'The Right Stuff,' Inspired a Generation of Astronauts
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Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.