June 20, 2011 Margaret Lazarus Dean didn’t become an astronaut, but the Knoxville novelist’s debut book, The Time It Takes to Fall (2007), required a detailed understanding of astrophysics and of the specific conditions that led to the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. Now, in an new essay in The Huffington Post, Dean explains where her love of space missions came from, and pays tribute to her father, who, Saturday after Saturday, took her to visit the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC., when she was a child:
Sometimes people ask me how I became obsessed with spaceflight. I think what they mean to ask is how as a girl I became obsessed with spaceflight — women are definitely a minority among space geeks. My answers have changed over time, and the longer I’m asked, the further back I have to trace the history, the true origins, of my love affair with rockets and astronauts.
I was first asked the question when my novel about the Challenger disaster was published. I used to answer that I lived near Washington, DC as a child and spent a lot of time at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. I remember observing the relics of Apollo behind cloudy glass, the weird plastic packets of food eaten on the missions to the moon, the paper logs with algorithms printed on them, survival gear in case the capsule should splash down in the wrong place, including shark repellent. The idea that men had taken these things to the moon seemed like a dream, a fairy tale.