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The Astronaut Wives Club

With Jane Clayson in for Tom Ashbrook.

In the days of the Space Race, they became overnight celebrities as their husbands shot for the Moon. The Astronaut Wives Club.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon in 1969. (NASA)

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon in 1969. (NASA)

“If you think going to the Moon is hard, try staying at home,” said Barbara Cernan, the wife of astronaut Gene Cernan.

As their husbands shot for the stars, astronaut wives faced their own big challenges. In Life magazine, they were all beehives and lipstick – projecting an image of the perfect family for NASA as they worried privately about risks to their husbands and strains on their marriage.

This hour, On Point: “The Astronaut Wives Club.” Plus, we’ll talk about the Mercury 13, the would-be female astronauts at the dawn of the Space Race.


Lily Koppel, author of “The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story” (2013) and “The Red Leather Diary” (2008). (@lilykoppel)

Jane Dreyfus, formerly married to Pete Conrad – Commander of the Apollo 12 mission and the third man to walk on the Moon.

Martha Ackmann, author of “The Mercury 13: The True Story of Thirteen Women And the Dream of Spaceflight” (2004).


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  • creaker

    I wonder if female pilot testing was driven at all by “Starship Troopers” by Robert Heinlein. One of the premises of the book was that women were physiologically superior for being spaceship pilots.

  • http://www.facebook.com/doleyar Dave O’Leyar

    It would be great if people would remember that Velentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, was ejected from her spacecraft and had to land via parachute.

    I hardly think that this was a stunt, or that she didn’t have the tools of an “astronaut”;  in fact she had greater courage and had to display a “bravery” that no American woman astronaut had to invoke.

    Read, hear and see more about her flight here:



    Still I want to honor and celebrate Dr. Sally K. Ride, who did display the American “can do” needed to be the first American woman in space.  It took her 20 years longer to accomplish the same feat that Tereshkova performed in 1963.  Both woman need to be remembered, honored and celebrated.  To be the first in the history of the world is really something to remember.

    Read, hear and view more about Dr. Sally K. Ride, and her mission here:



  • Allison L.

    The Astronaut Wives Club is vaguely reminiscent of what it is to be a military wife even today. Maybe not to the scale of constantly hounded by media, but everyone is watching you to see how you are “handling” a deployment, especially the secret ones overseas you’re not allowed to talk about. Worst part about it all is that its hard these days for a military spouse to hold down a job, because of the natural emotional roller-coaster we go through with fears and worries associated with deployments – and employers are already hesitant to hire you, and will let you go at any indication of effect on your work. I admire and envy the poise and stamina of these women and can’t wait to finish reading this book.

    • Don_B1

      I would assume, without a lot of data at hand, that a big employment factor for military wives (or husbands) is the regular movements all over the country for the military members of families, which limit the length of employment and thus the time in which the company can employ the person and recoup the costs of any training that the business might provide.

      Certainly a military spouse needs to work to support the family, but also has many problems similar to single parent families when the military member is on a long deployment. The need to deal with children can be a problem at jobs where there is not reasonable provision for flexibility in the workplace.

  • Shivangi Misra

    What about the crash of the Columbia accident? Doesn’t anyone remember that there was an Indian aboard that one.

  • Art Toegemann

    Admittedly, I have not read the guests books. But I was confounded by the fact that the one feature that makes them noteworthy, their gender, was never explored as to menstruation and childbirth, still unaccomplished in outer space.

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