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 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 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?
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Margaret Lazarus Dean grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. She holds a BA in anthropology from Wellesley College and an MFA in fiction from the University of Michigan. She is the author of The Time It Takes to Fall (Simon & Schuster, 2007), a novel about the space shuttle Challenger disaster. Her work has appeared in StoryQuarterly, FiveChapters, Michigan Quarterly Review, and the Huffington Post, and she is a recipient of an NEA fellowship and a Hopwood Award for the novel. She is an assistant professor of English at the University of Tennessee and lives in Knoxville.