Winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize, a breathtaking elegy to the waning days of human spaceflight as we have known it.
In the 1960s humans took their first steps away from Earth - and for a time our possibilities in space seemed endless. But in a time 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, such as 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?
Cover image courtesy of NASA.
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Disappointing for a space buff
Boring, lengthy story of her personal experiences watching shuttle launches, mostly. Waited and waited for her to speak to her thesis of what America's temporarily leaving space really means for us, our children, and our future. She occasionally obliquely referred to this, but the narrative is bogged down with minutuae of, for example, what people were wearing at launches, even a disgusting reference to a photographer's sweaty armpits - I kid you not! In the final moments she asks the question, "what does it mean?" But instead of giving expert, insightful thoughts from knowledgeable people on this, she just leaves the question at the very end. Oops, spoiler alert :) Don't waste your time with this fluff.
Well, since the story is just her personal experiences, replete with way too much information and details of her personal life, I guess a lilting narration is appropriate.
Disappointment, boredom, and anger that I wasted so much time. I almost quit it about half way through but thought some insightful observations must be just "around the corner." Never came.
I am an avid space buff, collector, and grew up with the program. This treatment is a a disgrace.
- Randy Poe
A nostalgic account of space flight.