THE ASTRONAUT WIVES CLUB
By Lily Koppel
Y'all! When I was a wee one, I had the pleasure of going to the Michigan Space Center in southern Jackson County (in Michigan). It was on the campus of Jackson Community College, and it was a very cool place for a little girl in the late 70s/early 80s. It was an amazing place! There were actual rockets that stood outside of the center as well as a replica of a lunar module you could actually crawl into. There were space suits, an actual moon rock, as well as a simulated Black Hole. Of course, my most vivid memories were of the Neopoliton freeze-dried ice cream "just like the astronauts eat." It was good when I was seven. Not sure it would still be good as a forty-three year old. At any rate, I LOVED this place.
If I understand it correctly, the Michigan Space Center was established because James McDivitt, an astronaut who orbited the moon in 1969, grew up in Jackson, Michigan, and Alfred Worden, another astronaut who orbited the moon in 1971, was born in Jackson. Sadly, in 2003 (or there abouts), the decision was made to shut the center down -- budget cuts and all.
As a child of the 70s, astronauts were revered as American heroes, morally stick straight. Of course, as a young child, you have no real understanding of the media machine that manipulates the American public's understanding. It didn't just happen in the 1950s and 1960s, you guys! Still, these guys were heroes, and heroes behave on a separate plane than the rest of us ... or so we were told.
This book was great in terms of debunking just how perfect these families were. The astronauts were some seriously flawed people. I'm gonna be honest. It felt a lot like gossiping with your best girlfriend. Yet, reading each chapter, you began to feel sorry for the families that were wrapped up in the Space Race Mania.
The wives were asked to pour their entire lives into their husbands, making sure they were completely attended to without thought to their own needs or those of their children. In the public's eye, they were to appear picture perfect, furthering the appearance of the perfect American family.
However, behind closed doors, these families were hanging on by threads, while astronauts were allowed to explore all the debauchery they could manage. Many were cheating on their wives. They drank and partied. Meanwhile, the wives managed to keep it together on the home front while chain-smoking, drinking, and occasionally popping tranquilizers in an attempt to keep that fragile picture intact. NASA even moved the astrofamilies to Texas, where they all lived in cookie cutter neighborhoods in specially designed subdivisions...like some weird, space-age communes or something.
I won't give it all away, but I will say that if you have a beach vacation coming up, this would be a great book to pack for the trip!
35 books left until I meet my goal! Slowly but surely ... slowly but surely...