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Astro Turf: The Private Life of Rocket Science
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From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
The first theme that Lord illuminates is the systematic and selective writing of the history of spaceflight.Read more ›
The New Yorker cartoon quoted in "Astro Turf" so aptly describes how it felt to have a father working in the Southern California-based space program in the Mercury-through-Apollo era. Our dads, whatever it was that they did at North American Aviation or Rockwell or Hughes or wherever, was probably akin to having a dad (or a mom) working behind the scenes in Hollywood. They were not stars or astronauts, but they were working on something famous. And it was much more fun having your dad working on a moon mission than on missiles. At least they could talk to you about the moon.
M.G. Lord's book is the first I've read dealing with the "mid-century" experience of the Space Age kid and our sometimes emotionally challenged, distant engineer dads. Her personal search for what her dad was all about, where did he go and what was he doing when he disappeared into consulting at JPL, is a very touching piece of detective work.
Her observations about JPL and rocket science history and culture are keen and funny. She presents an excellent history of the McCarthy era's impact on some of the luminaries of early space exploration. In particular, she delves into the experiences of women engineers and scientists then and now; these are both painful and heartening stories.
This is a beautifully personal view of the space engineering world, and the men and women who attempt, and sometimes succeed, at accomplishing great missions of exploration.
To some extent it seems to be a history of Lord's own attempts to understand her father's work. I'm really puzzled why she still believes in the last chapter that her father's work on Mariner 69 was somehow "slight" or unimportant. As an engineer who has worked on scientific spacecraft for NASA, I can say with confidence that to have a contractor with the title of "cognizant engineer for mechanical devices" indicates that this contractor, her father, was very well respected and had a very important position. Lord does not seem to appreciate how incredibly difficult it is to get any mechanical apparatus to operate reliably in the cold vacuum of space. Her petulant insistance that her father's role was less important than he made it out to be indicates that she really hasn't understood the culture of JPL yet.
In several sections Lord seems to be attempting to write a history of gender descrimination within engineering. The "Men and Missiles" pamphlet is hilarious, and Ms.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer 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 14 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 23 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 on July 24, 2014 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 on June 18, 2014 by David Kukoff
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 on November 18, 2013 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 by Ken Korczak
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 by David Isenberg