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Inside the High-Stress Lives of Astronauts' Wives

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America’s space-age astronauts won fame and adulation for their death-defying journeys, but their wives had hard jobs too: raising the kids alone while the men spent months in training, looking picture-perfect for the cameras that were suddenly everywhere, and worrying that their husbands might not come back alive.

“Behind every great man there’s a strong woman, waiting at home – or back on earth,” says Lily Koppel, who interviewed many of the spouses for her new book The Astronauts’ Wives, featured in this week s issue of PEOPLE.

Nearly forty-four years after the Apollo moon landing, “They felt it was time for their story to be told.”

In 1959 the Mercury Seven wives (from left: Jo Schirra, Betty Grissom, Annie Glenn, Louise Shepard, Rene Carpenter, Marge Slayton and Trudy Cooper) inspect the tiny capsule that will carry their husbands, America’s first spacemen.