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Chapter 9: "Behind every good man, …!"
December 2004

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My fifth and last trip of the year to Star City, Russia, came at the onset of another Russian winter and brought with it some interesting personal circumstances and feelings for me. First, I was eagerly anticipating the beginning of training for the Russian space-walking suit, called the Orlan-M. Second, Expedition 9 Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Michael Fincke returned to Earth and Star City by way of the Steppes of Kazakhstan after 6 months in orbit. Third, my wife and I were set to celebrate our 12th year together, having married in 1992. Since I didn’t actually climb into the spacesuit this time (it was all theoretical and maintenance training), I would like to relate to you some thoughts of a more personal nature. Spacesuit stories will come a bit later!

Astronaut Clayton Anderson is pictured with wife, SusanImage at right: Astronaut Clayton Anderson is pictured with wife, Susan. Credit: NASA

During this session I was, understandably, focused on family. With Mike’s return to Earth to the open arms of his wife, son and brand new daughter (they were waiting for him here in Russia!), my thoughts were turned to my family back in Houston. While I certainly miss them on every trip, our approaching wedding anniversary gave me reason to pause and reflect. My wife, Susan, is simply amazing! Of course, she will be the first to deny any such accolades as she gallantly deals with the continuation of life in Houston. As I hope I have mentioned many times before, we have entered into this adventure together, with open eyes, minds and sympathetic hearts. When this journey was new, we talked many times about what we might see unfold before us. We discussed the potential stresses, the time away from family, the impacts to our children. We discussed the opportunities for travel and cultural enrichment, for the strengthening of our family. We looked at the “pros,” we looked at the “cons” and of course, we prayed. We are now about 1 year into the journey and we feel that we are handling things. All is not easy, yet we are pushing ahead together and we are truly growing as a family.

Susan continues to inspire me these days and she is a source of strength for me. As a Manager of Special Projects within the JSC Education Office, she is working reduced hours, but her plate is still pretty full. In addition to that, while I am away at Star City, she has to deal with the typical family issues that range from bill paying and grocery shopping to ensuring the kids make it to school or baseball practice or gymnastics on time! She has been steady as a rock and I can’t tell you how much I look forward to chatting with her every single day.

I used to think that the job of being an astronaut was the “dream of a lifetime.” While I still love what I do, I have since amended my thoughts, as my wife is clearly my “life force.” I am so grateful that I am sharing this ride with my true soul mate. Happy Anniversary, Susan!!!

ДО СВИДАНИЯ! (Dasvedanya) “See you later!”