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Margaret Lazarus Dean’s Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight

Margaret Lazarus Dean has published a book of creative nonfiction, Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight (Graywolf 2015). Margaret Lazarus DeanDean’s book, which won the 2013 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Award, is described as follows:

“In the 1960s, humans took their first steps away from the earth, and for a time our possibilities in space seemed endless. But in a period of austerity and in the wake of high-profile disasters like Challenger, that dream has ended. In early 2011, Margaret Lazarus Dean traveled to Cape Canaveral for NASA’s last three space shuttle launches in order to bear witness to the end of an era. With Dean as our guide to Florida’s Space Coast and to the history of NASA, Leaving Orbit takes the measure of what American spaceflight has achieved while reckoning with its earlier witnesses like Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe, and Oriana Fallaci. Along the way Dean meets NASA workers, astronauts, and space fans, gathering possible answers to the question: what does it mean that a spacefaring nation won’t be going to space anymore?”

Reviewer Donovan Hohn writes: “The heroic tale of America’s first space program—when patriotic cowboys in space suits rode Apollo rockets to the moon—has been told many times, most swaggeringly by those journalistic Homers, Mailer and Wolfe. The tale of America’s second space program—less heroic than the first, more tragic, its most lasting images those of the space shuttle Challenger exploding across a blue Florida sky—has been waiting for a different sort of storyteller, an elegist. Here she is. Margaret Lazarus Dean has written the space shuttle the obituary it deserves, documenting the program’s final countdown in prose that makes you feel by turns wistful and wonderstruck.”


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