In the wee hours one night in 1989 Doug Dechow came home from his job as a bartender and found a party in his living room.
“I saw this woman across the room, and surrounding her were three of my very good friends, and it was kind of like she was holding court,” said Dechow, then a student at Knox College in Illinois and now digital humanities and science librarian at Chapman University. “I thought, ‘That’s an interesting person. We should meet at some point.’”
Dechow went straight to bed that night, but soon he would go for a walk across campus with Anna Leahy – then a recent Knox graduate and now a professor of English and director of Chapman’s Office of Under- graduate Research and Creative Activity. Not long after that, on a date to an air show, they discovered their mutual passion for anything that flies.
“I was shocked that you were willing to go,” he said, turning toward her, “because there was no one else in my life who was willing to go to this air show with me.”
So began the romance that led to Generation Space: A Love Story, the new book by the now- married couple about their love for rockets, shuttles, jets and each other.
The book is part memoir and part nonfiction look at the era of space exploration spanning President John F. Kennedy’s
1961 pledge to put a man on the moon and the last flight of the Space Shuttle in 2011. The work takes readers on explorations of Cape Canaveral and beyond, guided by a poet and a scientist.
There are discoveries all along the way. At one point, Leahy, visiting the Kennedy Space Center on a media credential for the first time, trundles onto a bus with the press herd, not even sure where she was going.
“And then when I got there, I realized that Challenger had taken off from that launch pad decades earlier,” she said. “And I think that’s something that made us think that we had a book that others would want to read, because every time we talked about the Challenger accident, people of our gener- ation remember where they were and have something to say.”
To Leahy and Dechow, Generation Space is made up of Americans born between the Soviet forays into space in the 1950s and the first Space Shuttle mission in 1981.
The era’s emotional end is highlighted by the authors “coming to terms with the fact that we’re not going to Mars, despite having been promised that as children,” Dechow said. “We sort of bequeath the future to Generation Mars, and in the end, those who will get there.”
Display photo at top/Generation Space co-authors Anna Leahy and Doug Dechow share a love of rockets, shuttles, jets and each other.