Friday, August 01, 2014

The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story by Lily Koppel

I find it fascinating to read about all the news I did not notice as a child. Of course, children are not really concerned with world affairs when they have play with their friends and going to school as their everyday business. Still, some news is so big that even the kids pay attention. When I was a kid NASA's space program was headline news. I became aware of it during the telecast of John Glenn's orbits around the earth. Then I followed all of the missions through the Apollo program, but I tuned out whenever the cameras focused on astronauts' families. So Lily Koppel's The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story tells me much I did not know.

Even if I had paid attention, The Astronaut Wives Club would still be a revelation, because NASA and the cooperating media of the time only presented the happier side of astronauts' family stories. Besides experience as a test pilot and passing many physical and psychological exams, a candidate needed to have a seeming happy wife and attractive children to become an astronaut. The wives were expected to be wholesome and elegant. Of course, not everyone was as happy and stable as they pretended.

Koppel starts her story with the formation of NASA and the introduction of the Mercury Seven astronauts and their wives in 1959. She continues the story through each space launch in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, noting the addition of the New Nine astronauts and wives in 1962 and Group 3 in 1963. Readers get to know the Mercury Seven wives and selected wives from other groups well. She continues her story to the present, telling what has become of the many wives, widows, and divorcees.

The Astronaut Wives is entertaining and informative and should interest Baby Boomers and anyone interested in either the space program or the stories of women's lives.

Koppel, Lily. The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story. Grand Central Publishing, 2013. 272p. ISBN 9781455503254.


Donna said...

I read this a few months ago and enjoyed it as well. I was devoted to the space program and spent a few summer days glued to the TV through "holds" in the countdown until lift-off. I sympathized with the wives' stories told here. While in some ways they "lived well," in many others they were confined and put on display by NASA. Exciting, but not the kind of life I would want to lead.

ricklibrarian said...

Thanks, Donna. Looking for photos of the wives I found the one with the bright red lipstick. I think their original intention to pale pink would have been better, but that is not what LIFE wanted.