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Chapter 10: "It's the Family Life for me!"
February 2005

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Astronaut Clayton Anderson is pictured with his two children, Cole and Sutton MarieWe are back in the “training saddle” after some glorious family time over the holidays. Following a Thanksgiving cruise to Mexico, the Christmas break included a visit to Grandma and Granddad’s, the first white Christmas in the history of Houston, Texas (with snowmen, too!), and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona. All of which left us pretty exhausted but full of much family satisfaction and togetherness. But now, it’s back to concentrating on crew training and travel back and forth between Russia and the United States.

Image at right: Astronaut Clayton Anderson is pictured with his two children, Cole and Sutton Marie. Credit: family photo/NASA

Over the past 13 months or so of training for my initial flight into space, I have often remarked to folks about the challenges of dealing with the separation from my family. Of course I certainly do realize that an incremental flight on board the International Space Station will separate us for some 4 to 6 months, but the 2 years of preparatory training appear to be the most difficult obstacle to overcome for me. Many previous crewmembers have remarked that the actual flight was a “…piece of cake.” Apparently the focus on the actual spaceflight, its job execution and mission success, provide the impetus to allow the crew and their families to better handle the personal trials that a long-duration space flight brings. I look forward to that challenge, yet the one thing I have learned from this so far is the importance of my family. With the frequency of my travels away from the States, we have established some new family traditions that help us cope and will hopefully keep us close long after our space adventure!

Susan and I are blessed with two beautiful children, Cole and Sutton Marie. Even more special to Mom and Dad is their love of Tex-Mex cooking! So, one of the traditions is a weekly jaunt to our favorite Mexican restaurant to load up on some quesadillas and enchiladas…not to mention queso and chips!

Clay Anderson's wife, Susan, and their two childrenAlso on the food side, I have a huge affinity for Chinese and Mexican food and, of course, big juicy steaks of Nebraska (okay, Iowa, too, just keep it in the Midwest!) corn-fed beef. So, like clockwork, just before I leave for Russia and nearly immediately upon my return, we do one tradition, as above, mixed in with Susan and I finding time to lunch at our favorite Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant and a family steak fry on the grill! Mmmmmmmmm…..can’t you just taste it!???

Image at left: Clay Anderson's wife, Susan, and their two children. Credit: family photo/NASA

For even more togetherness, Susan and the kids came up with Family Movie Night (or FMN in NASA acronym-ese). No, we don’t head to the local cinema, but we spread big soft blankets on the floor, loaded with lots of pillows and we crank up a DVD of one of our favorite flicks. Complete with some popcorn, hot chocolate and Cosmo, the miniature dachshund, we all lay down cuddled up on the floor, one big happy family. It is entirely irrelevant that most of the time none of us even sees the end of the movie, as we are all sound asleep!

Most days I can’t even imagine how I will be touched by the amazing things that await me in outer space. I think of the challenges there and the mission goals we must accomplish, but I know one thing now is certain, I can’t accomplish anything without my family’s support.

Anyone up for a movie?

Всего Хорошего! (Vce-yeh-vo Ha-row-sho-vo) All the best!