How does Tom Wolfe's book The Right Stuff relate to organizational change? 

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The theme of organizational change is evident all through Tom Wolfe's book The Right Stuff as he describes America's shift from its Air Force pilot program to the development of the space program.

In 1957, immediately after the Soviet Union announced having sent Sputnik I into orbit, President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced the start of the American space program and began the process of choosing astronauts from among the Air Force test pilots. Prior to the announcement of the space program, the Air Force's pilots thought test pilots at Edwards Air Force Base enjoyed the highest status a pilot could achieve in his career. These high-ranking pilots were unsure about becoming astronauts, feeling that becoming an astronaut would be no better than becoming a lab rat. The series of physical endurance tests and "humiliating" examinations given by the scientists and doctors during the selection process only served to confirm the pilots' fears that they were becoming lab rats (p. 71).

Once the astronauts were chosen and once they began their training under the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the pilots chosen as astronauts ran up against the exact same problem. The pilots wanted to be able to control their flights, but NASA only wanted to use them as non-participatory test subjects in space. After the pilots continued to go head to head with NASA on the subject, a compromise was finally reached, and the rocket was redesigned so that the pilots had some but not many operational controls.

Hence, the whole story is about how one organization, the US Air Force, changed into a brand new organization, NASA, by making use of the Air Force's best flight test pilots.

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The Right Stuff

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