Two By Two

SpaceX launch

When my husband, Hoot Gibson, and I watched the launch of the SpaceX spaceship recently, we were as excited as the rest of the country that NASA was launching from American soil again.  We also realized that, although we don’t personally know Bob Benkhen and Doug Hurley, we share something unusual with them.  Can you guess what it is?

First Astronaut Couple

Bob and Doug are married to other Astronauts, Megan McArthur and Karen Nyberg, respectively and each has a son.  When we married almost 40 years ago it was the first time active duty Astronauts married and there was quite a bit of press interest in us.  How would we handle the stresses and strains of our incredibly busy lives? Would our marriage last?  At the time neither of us had flight assignments but we spent many hours traveling and training. Undergoing the same training helped us understand the pressures the other was under.  Our long trips together to other NASA centers in the T-38 jets, was some of our best quiet time.  Hoot was amazing in teaching me about the awesome but very technical world of aviation.

When the world’s first “Astrotot”, our child, Paul, was born things got more than a little crazy.  Any working couple with children understands the strain of shared duties and responsibilities and the coordination that it takes.  Our first year with Paul stressed our marriage immensely.  At the time, Hoot was assigned to a Shuttle flight and spent endless hours in simulators and flying to contractor facilities to view his flight hardware.  I felt like any overworked single parent for the next two years.  The Space X crewmembers also have had children along the way so they’ve had to face these same challenges and have made it work.

There were a number of two Astronaut marriages when we were in the Corps.  Some turned out well, but sadly, a number of them didn’t last.  I think Hoot and I hold the record.  We birthed the most Astrotots during our NASA years with three.  Believe me, it was never easy.  Luckily, we found a wonderful nanny, Joann Powell, who lived with us for 25 years.  We could not have done it without her.

SpaceX Family

I saw a picture of Karen Nyberg and Megan McArthur and their sons at the SpaceX launch and it reminded me of the times I watched Hoot’s launches with kids in tow on the roof of the Launch Control Center.  It was always frightening but spectacular and the culmination of many months of hard work.

We are honored to have walked that path together and to look back in wonder not only at the combined eight spaceflights we made but at the fact that we are still together, loving each other.  We’ve had an amazing life together and we hope the SpaceX families will have as many happy years as we’ve had.

(Fun fact: Statistically, fighter pilots and Astronauts have more girl children than boy children so the Gibson, Benkhen, and Hurley sons broke the rules!)

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  1. Really great family posting Dr. Seddon. I really enjoyed it.

  2. Thank you for this story. No one but you could tell it.

  3. What a pleasure to read. Your perspective on the astronaut experience adds a personal angle over and above the work of spaceflight, and it’s every bit as valuable to appreciate the work it takes to be spouses and parents. I know from talking with you at events like ASF and Spacefest that a sense of humor is mandatory equipment in space and on the ground. Thank you!

  4. The best! All the best for many, many years to come!
    John Dann Beam

  5. “Astrotots” – I love it! Thank you for sharing this, Rhea.

  6. Dear Rhea: Thanks for the inside information on this most recent human space exploration. I always enjoy reading your blogs.

    I also enjoyed the article by DEBAKCSY. It is nice that someone put your accomplishments in a new light and perspecitive

    Many blessings,

    Ms. Ruthie.

  7. I enjoyed reading your story. Thank you. I am the daughter of Eugene Jacobson who was your husband’s Physics teacher at Suffolk Community College many years ago. Your husband was so kind during a visit in the early 90’s I believe to say hello to my Dad and send signed pictures to my daughter and niece. He also wrote my father a beautiful letter. My Dad passed in 1996 and i recently came across all these items again. My older daughter was interested in reaching out just for a hello. She has few memories of her grandfather. Anyway, please thank Hoot ! Such an amazing career and story.


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