In her account of hitting “the wall” during her husband’s space voyage, Stacey Morgan
“He is grey, not pale. He appears old rather than worn out.”
There is no “I” in the team, which is one of the first lessons a new NASA astronaut learns. Prospective astronauts are instructed not to utilize the space agency or their status as a spaceflight participant for self-promotion as part of their roughly two years of training prior to becoming eligible for flying assignments.
The astronauts may be the most noticeable members of the NASA crew, but their primary responsibility is to represent the organization, not themselves. Recent astronauts like Chris Hadfield and Scott Kelly, who effectively used their spaceflights to raise their public profiles, did so with the intention of never flying again. That is not to imply that Hadfield and Kelly weren’t excellent space travelers or collaborative teammates. The only difference is that astronauts who wish to secure their next flight assignments avoid drawing attention to themselves.
This unbreakable criterion makes the most recent release of Stacey Morgan’s book, The Astronaut’s Wife, noteworthy. In the book, Morgan recounts her relationship with her husband, Drew Morgan, whom she first met while both were freshmen at West Point. The book’s main focus is Morgan’s space voyage, which will take place from July 2019 to April 2020. The narrative also includes tales of their four children, life lessons, and references to Scripture.
The chasm of space
The book’s most telling feature is how in-depth Stacey Morgan goes into her relationship with Drew and their kids, and how his spaceflight affected them. The optimal time for Drew to contact home, for instance, was during his last hour before night, at around 9 pm Greenwich Mean Time, due to the time schedule and long working hours on the space station. This meant that he contacted his family back home in the fall of 2019 at around 4 PM in Houston. The hour after school and before dinner was when the Morgan family’s day was the busiest.
“I’m dying to talk to Drew, to find out what the crew is up to, and to tell him about my day, but this is a bad moment. Dinner has hardly begun, and I need to drop Amelia off at small group in 90 minutes “Writer Stacey Morgan. “These days, parenting concerns weigh so heavily and accumulate so swiftly. Lying, adolescent hormones, bullying, friendship setbacks, body image issues, and college preparation.”
Through the 2019 Christmas season, the couple maintained communication, but finally “the wall” came up. Morgan compares this to the final kilometers of a marathon, which she knows must come to an end yet never seems to. Early in January, three and a half months before Drew Morgan’s Soyuz spacecraft was scheduled to touch down, she arrived at this stage of the trip.
She describes the view outside the window as having a dark sky and brown, dormant vegetation. “Nothing is exciting. Nothing exciting is listed on the following pages of my desk calendar. Nothing noteworthy to organize for. Not even a good dinner to be had. I believe this is terrible. No end is in sight, either. I’ve reached my limit.”
The spouse is usually ignored when astronauts travel to space. In the book, Morgan describes how NASA goes to great lengths to involve partners and kids in important spaceflight tasks, but it can still be lonely on Earth. It is true that US military members deploy all over the world, and hundreds of thousands of families across the nation experience a comparable level of anxiety. Drew Morgan’s Army service included deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa, which Stacey Morgan and her kids witnessed. But with her back on Earth and all the family obligations, there was something radically different about his being in space.
Stacey Morgan’s description of seeing her husband come back to Earth is one of the most evocative passages in the book. The planet was unaware of COVID-19 when he left. Earth was in the grip of the pandemic when he arrived back. This meant that all of the routine things that spaceflight families engage in had to be restricted, which increased her sense of seclusion from both her husband and those who may have offered support.
As Morgan describes witnessing the landing, she thinks to herself, “This is all wrong, I think to myself as my inner dissident stands up on its soapbox.” “I should be surrounded by a boisterous group of pals. We need to be giggling and chatting.”
Instead, she and her kids observe from a room with a view of the NASA Mission Control Center at the Houston-area Johnson Space Center. While they wait, a lone escort brings them chocolate chip cookies.
When Stacey Morgan finally sees her husband exit the Soyuz capsule in broad daylight on a remote Kazakhstani steppe, she is horrified. “Drew has been transported into the future through space travel, and he appears to be 85 years old. He is grey, not pale. The opposite of exhausted, he appears old “She composes. “Concern for Drew’s safety has now taken the place of whatever relief I may have experienced upon seeing the capsule safely on the ground. He appears awful.”
The Astronaut’s Wife doesn’t contain any very dramatic scenes. Despite being a little bit longer than usual, Drew Morgan’s space mission was very routine. But this book opens a door to the intensely private aspect of an astronaut’s mission that NASA hides. The book is exceptional in this regard, especially coming from the partner of an active astronaut.
What does all of this mean for Drew Morgan’s career, then?
Nothing in the book is blatantly critical of NASA, and given all the initiatives it has taken to assist spaceflight partners, I’d say the space agency has a good reputation. The Morgans are not making money off of this book either. All book sales earnings will be given to organizations that assist military families. Last but not least, Drew Morgan is a good astronaut by all accounts, especially after finishing a 272-day space voyage on his first mission.
However, NASA disapproves of this “insider baseball” being made public. Senior astronaut office officials were reportedly unhappy with the book’s publishing, according to sources. After all, neither a team nor a spouse contains an “I.”
However, it would be unfortunate if an astronaut whose space voyage prompted the creation of a book of inspiration, faith, and hope were barred from undertaking other space missions.
It is not grandstanding; rather, The Astronaut’s Wife is an effort to bring what NASA does in space to Earth and improve people’s lives there a little bit. This is what NASA strives to accomplish every single day.
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