It was also fitting for a child, born in early 2010, whose formative years have been contoured by spaceflight. Just a few months after Jack's first birthday, in the summer of 2011, Hurley flew again, piloting the final shuttle flight. And shortly after Jack turned 3, his mom, Karen Nyberg, 44, would spend six months aboard the International Space Station. She returned to Earth on Nov. 10.

"It's been a whirlwind," Hurley said.

Jack's unprecedented upbringing offers rare insight into the lives of astronauts, who have both off-world lives and live very much in the real world of Houston.

While mom flew overhead in space, Hurley took their son to Moody Gardens, put him to bed and arranged for Jack to talk to mommy on a special phone hook-up.

Theirs is a 21st-century story, a very real reminder that astronauts make more sacrifices than just risking death by flying into space.