We look back at the end of the shuttle era and what spaceflight could and should look like today.
Margaret Lazarus Dean ponders what will be next for U.S. spaceflight and offers a sobering assessment that, while there's still space travel going on, we're still probably in for a bit of a drought.
Her new book "Leaving Orbit" documents the final three space shuttle missions and looks at the future of U.S. space flight.
When Dean begins to write, in a post-Challenger, post-Cold War, antiheroic NASA funding cycle, her contemporaries are mostly ignorant about it, and often outright hostile. For reasons she cannot understand, Americans don't love the shuttle quite like she does.
The best explanation for its grounding, she goes ahead and says, is the public's own apathy. "Most people had not really noticed that we were still flying in the first place." While commiserating about this with Buzz Aldrin, whom she meets while promoting her novel, the moonwalker tells her that he wishes they had sent John Denver into space. "John Denver could have written a song in space that would inspire generations to come."
She joined MPR News' Tom Weber to talk about her book.
Video: Shuttle closeout crew says goodbye
Video: Final launch of the space shuttle program