Meet the Real-Life Women Behind the Astronaut Wives Club
THE WIVES OF PROJECT MERCURY ASTRONAUTS
The real-life women behind the Astronaut Wives Club – seated from left: Marjorie Slayton, Betty Grissom, Louise Shepard; standing from left: Josephine Schirra, Annie Glenn, Rene Carpenter, Trudy Cooper – pose for a photo at the Langley Research Center in Virginia in 1959. "[It] tells the story of the space-race through the eyes of the wives who saw their husbands go up into space and not know if they were going to return or not," actress Yvonne Strahovski, who plays Carpenter, tells PEOPLE of the 10-episode ABC series, which debuted Thursday night.
MERCURY CAPSULE MEETING
The wives all gather in front of the original Mercury capsule. "You had to hold the fort at home and also get thrown into the limelight and become, in essence, America's first reality stars," Strahovski explains.
The women sit around a table as they chat with one another. "The story is really about sisterhood and friendship and being a strong woman," JoAnna Garcia Swisher, who plays Grissom, says. "And everyone has such specific personalities and played important parts in such important moments in our nation's history."
'50s POOL DAYS
Schirra (left) and her daughter Suzanne have fun splashing around in the pool with Slayton (right) and her son Kent. "None of those men would have been picked had they not had a model home life," Swisher explains. "Even to this day, there is no such thing as the perfect family and the perfect marriage."
The ladies smile as they enjoy each other's mid-day company. "[Rene] (pictured left) was so inspiring to me – everything that she accomplished from day one on her journey," Strahovski says. "It was amazing to see how she found her voice during this time. She ended up becoming a writer with a syndicated column and a talk show in the early '70s – where she could talk about women's issues – which at the time was such a touchy subject because it was only just beginning."