Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan poses with his family and his daughter's friend during EVA training at Kennedy Space Center in 1972.
The men of NASA's Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs were national heroes -- a few even became icons. But they were husbands, too -- most of them fathers -- and the wives who stayed behind while their other halves explored other worlds often found themselves in an orbit all their own.
"I think we girls all shared something that no other group of women shared in history," said Marilyn Lovell, who found herself in the headlines along with husband Jim Lovell, the commander of Apollo 13.
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan
As soon as America's first astronauts were picked and announced to the world, the lives of these seven test pilots' wives changed forever.
As Lily Koppel writes in "The Astronaut Wives Club," "They had spent the best years of their lives raising kids and supporting their husbands' careers and moving their families from one end of the country to the other, from one dismal base to the next. Now their husbands were astronauts, and they, too, were instant celebrities."
Left: Life Magazine was awarded exclusive media rights to the astronauts and their families.
Mercury astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., the first American to fly into space, is congratulated by President John F. Kennedy and presented with the NASA Distinguished Service Award, in a ceremony on the White House lawn, May 6, 1961. Shepard's wife, Louise (left) and his mother were in attendance.
After receiving a medal at the White House, astronaut Alan Shepard and his wife Louise were feted by a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Shepherd later flew to the Moon as commander of Apollo 14.
Trudy Cooper, wife of Gordon "Gordo" Cooper, and their teenage daughters, Cam and Jan, watch as the astronaut lifts off during the Gemini 5 mission, August 21, 1965.
Astronaut Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom with his wife, Betty, and sons Scott (left) and Mark are photographed after the Gemini-Titan mission, March 25, 1965.
Grissom, one of the original "Mercury Seven" astronauts, died in a ground fire aboard Apollo 1 in 1967.
A family portrait of Jeannie and Charlie Bassett. Charlie was training for Gemini 9 when he was killed in a crash of his T-38 in 1966.
The first people at Jeannie's house that day weren't from NASA -- they were other wives, who shared a special bond, being the spouses of pilots who might not make it back from work alive.
"The guys were supportive," Jeannie Bassett told correspondent Lee Cowan, "but the wives were just there."
Pat White (left), wife of astronaut Ed White, and Pat McDivitt (right), along with the Whites' children, Bonnie and Eddie III, sit with flight director Chris Kraft at Mission Control during the Gemini 4 mission, June 1965. Astronaut James McDivitt followed up the Gemini 4 mission aboard Apollo 9.
Bonnie White talks to her dad, the first American astronaut to perform a spacewalk, at Mission Control during the flight of Gemini 4, June 1965.
Marilyn Lovell and her children follow the liftoff of the Apollo 8 mission, carrying astronaut James Lovell, on December 21, 1968. From left: James, Jeffery, Susan and Barbara.
Apollo 9 lunar module pilot Russell L. Schweickart relaxes with his housewife, Claire, and children at their home near the Manned Spacecraft Center, Texas, March 25, 1969.
Apollo 10 mission commander Thomas P. Stafford relaxes at home with his wife, Faye, and children, Dionne, 15, and Karin, 12, sitting on floor, at their home in Nassau Bay, Texas, near the Manned Spacecraft Center, May 14, 1969.
Apollo 8 lunar module pilot William Anders poses with his wife, Valerie, and children (clockwise from top: Greg, Alan, Gayle and Eric) at their home, December 19, 1968.
Apollo 10 command module pilot John W. Young relaxes at home with his wife, Barbara, and children, Sandy, 12, and John, 10, at their home in Nassau Bay, Texas, near the Manned Spacecraft Center, July 14, 1969.
Commander of the Apollo 11 mission Neil A. Armstrong and his family; wife Janet, and sons Eric and Mark, July 7, 1969. Two weeks later, Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon.
Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr., lunar module pilot of the Apollo 11 mission, poses with his family; wife, Joan, and children, J. Michael, Janice R., and Andrew J.
The wives of the Apollo 12 astronauts greet their husbands, who were kept in quarantine following their return from the Moon.
Astronaut Frank Borman poses with his wife, Susan, and sons, Frederick (left) and Edwin.
Apollo 12 commander Charles "Pete" Conrad, Jr., relaxes with his wife, Jane, and their four sons (from left: Christopher, 8; Andrew, 10; Peter, 14; and Thomas, 12) at their home near the Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, November 13, 1969.
Jane Conrad, wife of astronaut Pete Conrad, the third man to walk on the Moon. Conrad flew in the Gemini 5, Gemini 11 and Apollo 12, and aboard Skylab.
The Conrads divorced in 1988, which was not uncommon -- most of the astronaut wives' marriages fell apart.
"We were just young and inexperienced and not ready for a lot of it," Barbara Cernan Butler, ex-wife of Gene Cernan, told Lee Cowan. "I think that it took a real toll on, I'd say, the majority of our marriages."
Apollo 12 lunar module pilot Alan L. Bean relaxes with his wife, Sue, and children (Clay and Amy Sue, 6), at their home near the Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, November 13, 1969.
Apollo 12 command module pilot Richard F. Gordon relaxes with his wife, Barbara and children (standing, left to right: Carleen, 15; Richard, 14; and Thomas, 10; kneeling, left to right, Laurence, 11; Diane 8; and James, 9), at their home near the Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, November 13, 1969. The dog is named Sophia.
The Lovell Family in March 1970: Barbara, Marilyn, Jeffrey, Jim, and Susan. Son Jay, as a student at St. John's Military Academy in Wisconsin, was not present.
Jim Lovell flew into space aboard the Gemini 7, Gemini 12, Apollo 8, and fated Apollo 13 missions.
A note for returning Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell from his family, after surviving an on-board explosion on his journey to the Moon.
Mary Haise poses for the press along with her children after her husband, Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise, safely returned to Earth in 1970.
Apollo 14 mission commander Alan B. Shepard, Jr., relaxes with his family at home near the Houston Manned Spacecraft Center in Texas, January 27, 1971. Shepard is sitting between his wife, Louise (left), and daughter, Laura, 22. Seated in front are his niece Alice, 19, and daughter Julie, 19.
A family portrait of astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell, lunar module pilot of Apollo 14, and his family: from left, Mrs. Mitchell (the former Louise Elizabeth Randall), Elizabeth, 11, and Karlyn, 17.
The wives of the Apollo 14 crew -- Joan Roosa, Louie Shepard, and Louise Mitchell -- hold a news conference a few hours before their husbands were launched on NASA's sixth manned voyage to the Moon, January 31, 1971.
Astronaut Charles Duke and his wife, Dorothy, pose at pad 39-A. in front of the Saturn V space vehicle that will carry him and fellow Apollo 16 astronauts John Young and Thomas Mattingly to the Moon, March 9, 1972.
Barbara Cernan, wife of Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan, and their daughter Teresa ("Tracy"), observe Cernan during lunar EVA training at Kennedy Space Center in 1972.
A farewell kiss from Gene Cernan to his family as he prepares eave the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building on his way to pad 39-A for the launch of Apollo 17, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, December 7, 1972.
With the space shuttle program, NASA missions for the first time included female astronauts, beginning with Sally Ride in 1983.
In 1984 astronaut Anna Lee Fisher (left), who was married to fellow astronaut Dr. William Frederick Fisher, became the first mother in space. The Fishers were parents to Kristin Anne (born in 1983) and Kara Lynne (born in 1989).
Space Shuttle (STS-103) payload commander Steven L. Smith and his wife, Peggy, and children smile for the camera on the runway at Patrick Air Force Base, December 28, 1999. The mission marked the first time a Shuttle crew spent the Christmas holiday in space, supplying the Hubble Space Telescope with six new gyroscopes, a new on-board computer, and other parts.
A Duke family portrait is pictured on the lunar surface, near a boot print by astronaut Charles Duke, who left it during the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. "This is the family of Astronaut Duke from Planet Earth. Landed on the Moon, April 1972," he wrote on the back of the picture, which shows Charles, his wife Dottie, and their two sons, Charles and Tom.