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The success of the 1997 Mars Pathfinder mission—and the fact that its dynamic director, Donna Shirley, was a woman—reminded many of how far both space exploration and NASA's male-dominated culture had come. Lord (Forever Barbie) ought to know. Her dad, a rocket scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California during the '60s, had a personality as distant as the stars, and his anachronistic views about women left Lord "driven by terror" to flee to college. Upon her return to JPL 30 years later to learn what made engineers, and her dad, tick, Lord confirmed that he'd simply "embraced the values of his profession: work over family, masculine over feminine, repression over emotion." WWII and McCarthyism had helped create JPL's cowboy culture; for years, the few women who worked there were encouraged to compete for the title of Miss Guided Missile, a beauty and popularity contest. Homosexuals, meanwhile, were barred from employment, even while German engineers who'd committed Nazi war crimes were welcomed with open arms. It wasn't until Donna Shirley arrived in the 1970s that the center's top-down, male-oriented management approach gradually shifted to a "partnership" model. This is an often fascinating work, and cultural critic Lord's sharp turns from family affairs to JPL history result in wonderful discoveries for readers.
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Cultural historian Lord (Forever Barbie, 1994) examines her childhood relationship with her remote father as a way of understanding JPL’s ethos, its boom-and-bust cycle, and the political changes that took place between the Cold War and present. Rather than discuss the science or engineering of NASA, Lord focuses on JPL’s brilliant if flawed characters, from Frank Malina, the ousted cofounder of JPL, to the lionized former Nazi criminal Wernher von Braun. A few minor errors, some generalities, and a sense that Lord and her father’s true personalities lay just outside the reader’s immediate grasp mar the book’s fascinating subject and easy writing. Nonetheless, Astro Turf is at times a captivating look at human foibles, family forgiveness, wins, and losses.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Editorial Reviews
"I had long wanted to read this book as I have enjoyed Lord's appearances over the years as both panelist and moderator at the L.A. Times Festival of Books. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Steven Paul Leiva
The book starts nicely, with the author visiting the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and interviewing those who worked with her father (a JPL engineer). Read morePublished 11 months ago by A Forest Fan
For those of us who witnessed space exploration through those periodic NASA broadcasts in the 1960's through the present time, this is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Swift 37
MG Lord's poignant and powerful account of adolescence in 1960's Southern California transcends the all-too-prevalent coming-of-age- amidst-dysfunction memoirs that have gummed up... Read morePublished 14 months ago
Lord presents a fascinating read about the early years at JPL. The back stories of the men in the early development of the space program as well as the period's Cold War paranoia... Read morePublished 21 months ago by C. Martinez
Satan worshipers, left-over Nazis, kooky dreamers , communist sympathizers, war mongers and male chauvinist pigs - that's who the Founding Fathers of the U.S. Read morePublished on June 30, 2013
This is an example of an author attempting to force his/her agenda on others. The book is unfocused, un-disciplined, poorly researched, filled with personal opinions (many of which... Read morePublished on October 31, 2011 by Gilbert Huey
I was disappointed with this book. It seems like a missed opportunity for an overview of all that is JPL - the people and the missions regardless if they were successful or... Read morePublished on September 1, 2010 by Gary Milgrom
I just finished reading this and found it excellent. It is a rare combination of personal confidences and understanding of a professional culture. Read morePublished on April 18, 2009