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Leaving orbit : notes from the last days of American spaceflight
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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?

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We went to space for 50 years, and then we stopped. With no further space travel in the offing, the last American space-shuttle flight in 2011 could mark the end of an era. For Dean, who traces her love of space back to childhood trips to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., the question of what this means was troubling enough for her to commit to traveling to Florida for the three final shuttle launches. During this time, she shakes Buzz Aldrin's hand, becomes teary-eyed at the sheer size and magnificence of the Vehicle Assembly Building, and learns not to look frightened when an engineer starts talking in technical terms. This account of her visits, mixed with historical perspective on the space program, allows readers not only to visit Cape Canaveral while NASA was still sending Americans into space, but also to meet the workers and space fans for whom the sky was never the limit. With the countdown clock no longer ticking, Leaving Orbit offers a heartfelt eulogy for the dream and brief reality of American spaceflight.--Thoreson, Bridget Copyright 2015 Booklist
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Table of Contents
Prologue: Air and Spacep. 3
Chapter 1The Beginnings of the Future: This Is Cape Canaveralp. 11
Chapter 2What It Felt Like to Walk on the Moonp. 43
Chapter 3Good-bye, Discoveryp. 71
Chapter 4A Brief History of the Futurep. 105
Chapter 5Good-bye, Endeavourp. 143
Chapter 6A Brief History of Spacefarersp. 161
Chapter 7Good-bye, Atlantisp. 195
Chapter 8The End of the Future: Wheel Stopp. 229
Chapter 9The Futurep. 257
Epiloguep. 295
Timeline of American Spaceflightp. 303
Bibliographyp. 307
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