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'Astronaut Wives Club' TV series to launch in June on ABC

The stars of "The Astronaut Wives Club" recreate an iconic 1959 LIFE photo of the original spacemen's spouses. (ABC)
April 21, 2015

— "The Astronaut Wives Club" now has its launch date.

The new ABC docudrama about the spouses of America's first spacemen will premiere on Thursday night, June 18 at 8 p.m. EDT, the television network announced on Monday (April 20). The limited event series, based on author Lily Koppel's bestselling book by the same title, was originally slated to bow last summer, but was delayed to expand the show's scope to include the Gemini and Apollo astronauts.

"As America's astronauts were launched on death-defying missions, the lives of their young wives were transformed, seemingly overnight, from military spouses to American royalty," ABC stated, summarizing the history behind the series. "As their celebrity rose and tragedy began to touch their lives, they rallied together."

Produced and written by Stephanie Savage (CW's "Gossip Girl"), "Astronaut Wives Club's" first episode is directed by Lone Scherfig, director of the Academy Award-nominated film "An Education."

Title treatment for ABC's 2015 ten-episode series, "The Astronaut Wives Club," which follows the spouses of U.S. spacemen. (ABC)

Accompanying ABC's air date announcement was the first photo of the series' stars as the wives of NASA's "original" Mercury astronauts. The promo shot is a recreation of an 1959 LIFE magazine photo of the actual astronaut wives posing with a boilerplate Mercury capsule painted red and white. The original photo served as the cover for Koppel's 2013 book.

"The [astronauts'] wives looked like scoops of ice cream around an upside-down cone," Koppel wrote, remarking on six of the women's pastel-color dresses in the LIFE photo. "The wives each placed a manicured hand on the capsule, like models selling a Maytag. Perfect!"

In the 1959 photo – and its 2015 remake – the odd woman out was astronaut Scott Carpenter's wife Rene, portrayed in "Astronaut Wives Club" by actress Yvonne Strahovski (NBC's "Chuck" and Fox's "24: Live Another Day"). In the ABC promo, Strahovski models a similar, rose-patterned outfit to the one worn by Carpenter.

"Rene's dress matched the space capsule perfectly!" she wrote.

Strahovski's fellow astronaut wives include JoAnna Garcia Swisher (ABC's "Once Upon a Time") as Betty Grissom; Dominique McElligott (AMC's "Hell on Wheels") as Louise Shepard; Odette Annable (Fox's "House" and CBS' "Two and a Half Men") as Trudy Cooper; Erin Cummings (ABC's "Pan Am") as Marge Slayton; Azure Parsons (HBO "True Detective" and WGN's "Salem") as Annie Glenn; and Zoe Boyle (PBS's "Downton Abbey") as Jo Schirra.

The original Mercury astronauts' wives: Josephine Schirra, Betty Grissom, Annie Glenn, Louise Shepard, Rene Carpenter, Marjorie Slayton, and Trudy Cooper, as photographed in 1959. (TIME/LIFE)

Their TV husbands with the "right stuff" include Desmond Harrington (Showtime "Dexter") as Alan Shepard, the first American in space; Bret Harrison (Fox's "Breaking In" and ABC's "V") as Gordon Cooper; Wilson Bethel (CW's "Hart of Dixie") as Carpenter; Kenneth Mitchell (CBS's "Ghost Whisperer") as Deke Slayton; Joel Johnstone (HBO's "The Newsroom") as Virgil "Gus" Grissom; Sam Reid (History Channel's "Hatfields & McCoys") as John Glenn, the first U.S. astronaut in orbit; and Aaron McCusker ("Dexter") as Wally Schirra.

"Here. We. Go." Strahovski wrote on Twitter, in response to ABC's release of the premiere date.

"Astronaut Wives Club" is executive produced by Savage, as well as Josh Schwartz ("The O.C"; "Chuck"); Michael London ("Milk"); Len Goldstein ("The Carrie Diaries," "Hart of Dixie"); and Janice Williams ("All Good Things").

The series is produced by ABC Studios, Fake Empire and Groundswell.

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