Leaving Orbit

Leaving Orbit

Graywolf Press
240 pages • $16.00
ISBN: 978-1-555-97709-2

Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight

Margaret Lazarus Dean

Winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize

“A wonderfully evocative new book . . . Ms. Dean writes with the passion of a lifelong lover of space exploration and an ability to communicate, with tremendous kinetic power, the glory and danger of its missions.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

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 space-faring nation won’t be going to space anymore? “[Leaving Orbit] is an exuberant, wistful account of the author’s repeated schleps from her home in Tennessee to swampy Florida, an account interspersed with the history of American spaceflight and quotes from its great chroniclers.”—Los Angeles Times

© Christopher Hebert

Margaret Lazarus Dean is the author of The Time It Takes to Fall. She is a recipient of fellowships from the NEA and the Tennessee Arts Commission and is an associate professor of English at the University of Tennessee. She lives in Knoxville.

Leaving Orbit has been adopted for First-Year Experience programs at:

University of Tennessee, Knoxville; University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science