- Hardcover: 259 pages
- Publisher: Walker Books; Original edition (January 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0802714277
- ISBN-13: 978-0802714275
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 7.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 21 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,305,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Astro Turf: The Private Life of Rocket Science Original Edition
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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.
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.
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The book instead focuses on the author's anger at how women were treated in US industry years ago and her anger that the German scientists of Operation Paperclip were never tried for their supposed part in the Nazi organization. She goes on and on about how Wernher von Braun's war record was ignored and about how women in past decades were seen as decoration or as suitable for light work only. Regarding women in the workplace the author fails to see that times have changed and you cannot use today's moral or ethical standards on a decades old organization. The author goes so far as to describe womens' treatment at MIT in the 1800's and at Cambridge University in the 1700's which is surely outside the scope of this book. Regarding von Braun's part in WWII, that is worth discussing but I don't see how it fits into this context (a history of JPL).
What really got me is her description of a launch as a phallic, demonstrably-male event. She further complains that the "feminine components" of a launch, such as the umbilical connecting rocket and pad, are hidden and not featured prominently. She makes this assumption even though she's never seen a launch. That's right, although her JPL contacts urged her to see one to better understand their missions and culture, she did not have the patience for the delays and decided it wasn't that important anyway. To me that translates as a person with her own agenda who refuses to be swayed by others' thoughts or even the facts themselves - not the type of author I think best qualified to write a historical account such as this.
Repetitively, M.G. Lord describes the field as masculine, and (heterosexual) male dominated.
By veering off-course to the story of those who (obviously) weren't there, she spends very little time exploring those who were there, what they accomplished, and their "private life".
"Astro Turf" is not an unpleasant read, and it has a number of interesting stories to tell. However, it will be a great disappointment to anyone looking for the story it purports to tell.