From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
HE'S RIDING IN THAT?

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 take their husbands, America's first spacemen, into the heavens (and hopefully back).

PUBLIC PRIVATE MOMENTS

Often photographed for LIFE magazine, the Mercury Seven wives (including Rene Carpenter, with husband Scott) "were America's first reality stars," says author Lily Koppel.

MOON-BOUND

From a Florida beach, Apollo 8 astronaut Jim Lovell's wife, Marilyn, and kids track the launch of the rocket carrying him, Frank Borman and William Anders in '68.

A WIDOW TO BE

Eight astronauts were killed before the U.S. reached the moon: four in plane crashes, one in a car wreck and three in a disastrous 1967 training accident. One of those three was Gus Grissom, here with wife Betty and sons Scott (left) and Mark in 1965.

HURRY UP AND WAIT

While their husbands trained for months in Florida, the wives back home became close and patient pals. Here in Virginia are (from top) Jo Schirra and daughter Suzanne and Marge Slayton with son Kent.

MEETING THE BRASS

The first American in space, Alan Shepard (with wife Louise) gets congrats at the White House from President John F. Kennedy, wife Jackie and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson in May 1961.