Last month Disney+ announced The Right Stuff highlighting the high-stakes space race era. The streaming service is also releasing The Real Right Stuff which is a companion piece to the scripted series. This documentary will premiere Fri., Nov. 20. 

The Real Right Stuff tells the remarkable true story of the nation’s first astronauts, the original Mercury 7, and pulls from hundreds of hours of archival film and radio broadcasts, interviews, home movies and other rare and never-before-seen material to catapult viewers back to the late 1950s. The two-hour documentary, from National Geographic will air the same day as the  season finale of The Right Stuff. 

Directed and produced by Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Tom Jennings (Apollo: Missions to the Moon, Challenger Disaster: Lost Tapes), The Real Right Stuff is a gripping account of NASA’s Project Mercury program, which revolutionized America’s role in human space exploration and inspired future generations of space enthusiasts. Free of modern-day narration and interviews, the special uses Jennings’ signature style to give viewers unparalleled access to the early days of the space race.

The Real Right Stuff

To underscore one of the most dramatic and tenacious times in history, “The Real Right Stuff” features:

  • Never-before-seen footage and newly synced audio – Shown for the first time are the tense moments that immediately followed the Mercury-Redstone 4 flight piloted by Virgil “Gus” Grissom.
  • Rare early radio and video recordings – Viewers experience the historic announcement of the Mercury 7 astronauts from a wide array of news outlets, all jockeying to cover America’s first space team and witness an internal government recording that outlines the formation of NASA from its predecessor, The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.
  • Never-before-seen research materials from Tom Wolfe – Hear Wolfe speak with Rene Carpenter, wife of Mercury 7 astronaut Scott Carpenter, and see intimate handwritten notes compiled for Wolfe’s seminal book, “The Right Stuff.”
  • Newly digitized John Glenn home movies – From the archives of The Ohio State University, John Glenn’s rare personal family moments are captured on 8 mm and 16 mm film.
  • Exclusive unseen and rare photographs – For the first time, behind-the-scenes photographs from the infamous LIFE Magazine issue are shared, providing a glimpse into the home lives of the Mercury 7 astronauts. Rare photos from National Geographic’s top photographers who covered the Mercury space program are also revealed.

Composed by James Everingham for Bleeding Fingers Music and produced by Academy Award, Golden Globe, Tony Award and GRAMMY Award winner Hans Zimmer and Emmy-nominated Russell Emanuel, the film’s orchestral score was recorded remotely by a socially distant 44-piece orchestra in May 2020. Each musician self-recorded from home which was then seamlessly weaved together to create a breathtaking score that perfectly captures the zeitgeist of midcentury America.

The Real Right Stuff is produced by 1895 Films for National Geographic. For 1895 Films, Tom Jennings serves as executive producer and director. The film is edited and produced by David Tillman and produced by Chris Morcom. For National Geographic, Simon Raikes is executive producer.

—Jennifer Swartvagher

Featured photo: Disney+

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