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What it's like to be the wife or child of an astronaut

HOUSTON – Ever wonder what it would be like to be the wife of an astronaut?

Many of the wives of the Apollo-era astronauts and their children are connected to Space City.

KPRC 2's Dominique Sachse sat down with them and talked about their lives.

Being the wife of an astronaut

Barbara's husband, Gene Cernan, flew on a Gemini mission before going up again for Apollo 10 and Apollo 17. He earned the recognition of being the last man to walk on the moon.

Gene and Barbara

Sue's husband, Alan Bean, took flight on Apollo 12 and later went up on SkyLab. He was the fourth man to plant his feet on the lunar surface.

"Did you ladies ever pinch yourself back then? I mean, your husbands are going to the moon, this is the height of the space race," Sachse asked.

"There's only been 12 who's been there. We had one of them. I do think that when I look up there at night," Barbara said.

Gene and Barbara

"We were supportive of each other. Barbara and I used to babysit for each other," Sue said.

The families lived close together and would help each other out, especially when it came to the children.

"I thought it was wonderful, (you) didn't lock your doors, (we) all lived within two blocks of each other," Barbara said.

"Behind my house, Buzz and Joan Aldrin lived and we had a gate we'd open. (The) Guys were gone a lot. We'd have tea together, swam together, our kids all grew up together," Sue said.

Taking care of the house

Sending men to the moon didn't happen overnight. It took years of planning, training and being away from home.

That meant the families bonded, not just out of proximity, but because of the community, which they built out of necessity.

"You learn to mow the grass, you learn to pay the bills, keep the house together, do everything," Barbara said. "It wasn't that it was so difficult. It just became part of your life. That's what you did and that was a role you had to follow."

Barbara and Tracy

Being a child of an astronaut

For the children, life with an astronaut dad was normal because they didn't know any different.

Tracy Cernan and friends.

"Daddy showed me where he landed and when the moon is full, I can see it," Tracy said. "He always said he was on God's front porch looking back at the earth."

Tracy is Barbara and Gene's daughter. She was 9 when her father became the last man to walk on the moon.

Gene and Tracy

"My dad went on business trips just like anyone else's, just sometimes a little farther," Tracy said.

"I had Tracy (their daughter) in my arms, (she would say) 'Look up at the moon, I think your daddy is heading up there,'" Barbara said.

"The moms were the ones that held these families together and they were really the true heroes," Tracy said.

The moon landing and other missions

When everything they worked for became reality and the Apollo 11 crew landed on the moon and then returned safely to earth, the families celebrated along with the rest of the world.

"We went to Pat Collins' home, remember? And all the wives were there. And when they picked them up at the ship, that's when we had the champagne," Sue said.

"You were so proud as an American that we had actually accomplished what we set out to do," Barbara said.

Gene and Tracy

The United States was racing to be the first to the moon. Gene Cernan's Apollo 10 mission paved the way for Apollo 11.

"They flew the closest to the moon without actually landing on it. That was their goal -- to map out the landing site."

Barbara talked to KPRC 2 after Gene's successful voyage into space.

"This is certainly one of the most exciting days of my life and I'm sure that Gene and Tom (Stafford) and John (Young) feel the same way," Barbara said.

Barbara

The 50th anniversary of the moon landing

To the space families, who still connect at reunions, the 50th anniversary is a chance to reflect on the Apollo era and the impact it had on them.

"Looking back at all that film and all the accolades, parades, I just thought to myself, I can't believe I was really a part of that. Fifty years ago. What a great life we had," Barbara said.