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Astro Turf: The Private Life of Rocket Science [Bargain Price] [Paperback]

M. G. Lord
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

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.

From Booklist

Lord, a prominent cultural critic, has zeroed in on two boomer-generation archetypes: Barbie, in Forever Barbie (1994), and the "cold-war-era rocket engineer," the subject of this engrossing mix of memoir, history, and social commentary. Lord's engineer father's work on Mars Mariner 69 brought him to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, home of the American rocket and a major player in NASA's planetary missions. Lord sets an affecting portrait of her father within an eye-opening history of rocket science, paying particular attention to JPL cofounder Frank Malina, a brilliant scientist of conscience driven out of his country and chosen field by J. Edgar Hoover. Lord sees bitter irony in the contrast between Malina's persecution and the celebrity status accorded the Nazi Wernher von Braun, developer of the V-2 rocket. Enhancing her penetrating examination of the cult of the rocket with astute forays into science fiction and pop culture, Lord also offers a unique analysis of the role of women and gays in this notoriously macho realm. Creative and discerning, Lord writes with both deep feeling and marvelously sardonic wit as she recovers buried truths about science, prejudice, and politics, and marvels over all that the space program has achieved. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"A lively, insightful look at the giddy world of aerospace engineering... I was fascinated." -- Richard Rhodes, author of Making of the Atomic Bomb

"A look back to the rough... opening of our movement into space, _Turf_ is... a hopeful ode to the future." -- Homer Hickam, author of Rocket Boys/October Sky

"Clean and true." -- Lawrence Weschler, author of Vermeer in Bosnia

"This book blends its own rocket fuel, one part daughter's love to two parts popular culture... makes a gorgeous explosion." -- Dava Sobel, author of Longitude and Galileo's Daughter

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to love _Astro Turf_." -- Eric Lax, author of The Mold in Dr. Florey's Coat --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

M. G. Lord is an author and critic. Since 1995 she has been a regular contributor to The New York Times Book Review and Times's Arts & Leisure section. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including ARTNews, Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, and The New Yorker. Currently, she is completing a family memoir about aerospace culture during the Cold War, which will be published in 2004 by Walker & Company. She lives in Los Angeles.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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