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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Outerspace Countdown: Astronaut Awaits Baby

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- He's flown in space once before, but last time astronaut Jerry Linenger didn't have to say goodbye to a baby son and a pregnant wife. And he was gone only 11 days -- this time it will be 132 days, on the Russian space station Mir.


Linenger and his wife, Kathryn, surely expect the next 4 1/2 months to be difficult. They've never been separated so long in nearly six years of marriage, plus now there's 1-year-old John, who may be talking before daddy returns to Earth.


"It's going to be like being a single parent for a while," said Kathryn. "I kind of wanted to be pampered for the last few months of pregnancy, but oh well."


Linenger took off before daybreak Jan. 12 aboard space shuttle Atlantis, to replace NASA astronaut John Blaha aboard Mir. He's due back on Earth in late May, one month before his wife is due to give birth to their second child. But his return date could slip if his shuttle ride home is delayed as it was last year for astronaut Shannon Lucid.


"I'm going to miss my family, no doubt about it," said Linenger, 41, a physician who will be the fourth and youngest American to live on Mir.


An epidemiologist who works in the space program, Kathryn, 31, plans to return with John to Russia a week or so after launch. (They were there for most of Linenger's cosmonaut training.) She will continue coordinating U.S. medical experiments for Mir, then return home to Houston in late April and prepare for her husband's homecoming and their child's birth, hopefully in that order. They don't know yet whether it will be a girl or another boy. He wants to know. She doesn't.


"I'll have to send him up some ultrasound videos or something" on the next Russian supply ship, Kathryn said. "He'll probably know before I do the sex of the baby."