The Mercury Seven
Rene Carpenter (pronounced to rhyme with keen)—wife of Scott Carpenter. JFK made it clear that platinum-blonde Rene Carpenter was his favorite astronaut wife. The 30-year-old mother of four had a welcoming smile, green eyes, and deep dimples. To keep spirits high and light, all the wives had their ways of dealing with the press. A favorite was the comic skit that Rene (“the rebel”) came up with: a one-woman show that she called “Primly Stable,” starring astronaut Squarely’s perfect wife, Primly Stable.
Trudy Cooper—“Gordo” Cooper’s wife. Trudy was the only licensed pilot among the astronaut wives. An enigmatic woman who was always conspicuously quiet with reporters, Trudy relied on her kittenish eyes to say, I’m happily married. The truth was, Trudy didn’t want anyone to find out her little secret.
Annie Glenn—wife of John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth. Whatever John did he gave his all to, and Annie supported him “a hundred percent.” She was just what NASA wanted the wives of its astronauts to be—a squeaky-clean American housewife. She had two perfect children, Dave and Lyn, and a dog named Chipper. Like Miss America contestants, she had her “talent.” Annie was the Ultimate Astrowife.
Betty Grissom—Gus Grissom’s wife. Betty had never thought of Gus as an American hero back in Mitchell, Indiana. She put him through engineering school at Purdue, slaving away on the 5 to 11 p.m. shift at Indiana Bell. Flying was Gus’s life, and Betty supported him without question.
Jo Schirra—wife of Wally Schirra, the practical jokester of the astronaut corps. Jo was Navy royalty. She knew very well the proper codes of behavior, taught to her by her Navy-wife mother—how to dress, how to serve tea to an officer, how never to go to an official function without her white gloves, pearls on, and calling cards.
Louise Shepard—wife of Alan Shepard, the first American to go into space. The other wives called her Saint Louise because she was so serene and ladylike.
Marge Slayton—wife of Deke Slayton, Coordinator of Astronaut Activities. Known as Mother Marge, she ran the Astronaut Wives Club. A born leader, Marge dosed out peppy, upbeat advice left and right, but she didn’t want anyone—especially at NASA—to know she had been divorced.
Meet some of the other wives…
Joan Aldrin—actress wife of Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon after Neil Armstrong on Apollo 11. The actress in Joan viewed Apollo 11 as her big moment. She’d have a worldwide television audience!
Susan Borman—wife of Frank Borman. A model of composure at A.W.C. meetings, New Nine wife Susan Borman knew the drill. Gung ho as all get out, she intended to take her Frank to the stars, because everyone knew the tighter the marriage, the better the flight position. She struggled to be “the perfect wife married to the perfect husband who was the perfect astronaut in a perfect American family raising perfect children.”
Jane Conrad—wife of Charles “Pete” Conrad, otherwise known as New Nine astronaut “Princeton Pete.” Jane was tall and model thin and had attended Bryn Mawr. The Conrads’ was the most “happening” house in Togethersville.
Barbara Cernan and Sue Bean—Best friends, these blonde Texans, as there were no sidewalks in Nassau Bay, often walked together down the middle of the street, pushing their daughters in strollers before them. They always shared their concerns. “Everyone wants to touch him,” Sue mused about her spaceman, Alan.
Marilyn Lovell—wife of Jim (“Houston, we have a problem”) Lovell; the famous commander of Apollo 13 was on Apollo 8, the first mission to orbit the Moon, given a 50-50 shot. Marilyn always told her friends she couldn’t live without Jim.