Blogging the Bookshelf

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A-Okay – “The Right Stuff” – Tom Wolfe

July 24th, 2011 · No Comments · Culture

Even Shorty Powers became famous. “The voice of Mercury Control,” he was called; that, and “the eighth astronaut.” Powers was a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, a onetime bomber pilot, and all during Shepard’s flight he had come on the air from the flight control center at the Cape saying, “This is Mercury Control…” and reporting the astronaut’s progress with a baritone coolness of the combat pilot’s righteous sort, and people loved it. After the capsule splashed down, Powers had quoted, or seemed to have quoted, Shepard as saying everything was “A-Okay.” In fact, this was a Shorty Powers paraphrase borrowed from NASA engineers who used to say it during radio transmission tests because the sharper sound of A cut through the static better than O. Nevertheless, “A-Okay” became shorthand for Shepard’s triumph over the odds and for astronaut coolness under stress, and Shorty Powers was looked up to as the medium who communicated across the gulf between ordinary people and star voyagers with the right stuff.


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