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This title in other editions

Astro Turf: The Private Life of Rocket Science

by

Astro Turf: The Private Life of Rocket Science Cover

 

Staff Pick

Astro Turf is a witty and perceptive look at the history of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California as seen from the daughter of one of its leading rocket scientists. Lord's lens is trained on the macho culture of the program, the culture that set her father at such emotional remove, as well as America's pop culture of the 1960s. What is at once a social history of the space travel program is also a poignant and thoroughly engaging ode to a daughter's love.
Recommended by Georgie, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A daughter's journey to rediscover her father and understand the culture of space engineers.

During the late 1960s, while M. G. Lord was becoming a teenager in Southern California and her mother was dying of cancer, Lord's father — an archetypal, remote, rocket engineer — disappeared into his work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, building the space probes of the Mariner Mars 69 mission. Thirty years later, Lord found herself reporting on the JPL, triggering childhood memories and a desire to revisit her past as a way of understanding the ethos of rocket science. Astro Turf is the brilliant result of her journey of discovery.

Remembering her pain at her father's absence, yet intrigued by what he did, Lord captures him on the page as she recalls her own youthful, eccentric fascination with science and space exploration. Into her family's saga she weaves the story of the legendary JPL; examining the complexities of its cultural history, from its start in 1936 to the triumphant Mars landings in 2004. She illuminates its founder, Frank Malina, whose brilliance in rocketry was shadowed by a flirtation with communism, driving him from the country even as we welcomed Wernher von Braun and his Nazi colleagues. Lord's own love of science fiction becomes a lens through which she views a profound cultural shift in the male-dominated world of space. And in pursuing the cause of her father's absence she stumbles on a hidden guilt, understanding "the anguish his proud silence caused both him and me, and how rooted that silence was in the culture of engineering."

As in her acclaimed book Forever Barbie, which demystified an icon of feminine culture, Lord brings her penetrating insight to bear on a bastion of American masculinity, opening our eyes in unexpected and memorable ways.

Review:

"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. Agent, Eric Simonoff. (Jan.) Forecast: This quirky mix of women's history, family memoir and science could reach a wide audience, aided by a blurb from Dava Sobel." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Lord's jauntily feminist perspective...sets this effort apart from the Right Stuff pack....The text sometimes reads like a glib hybrid of science history and tabloid gossip....Lord's snappy prose and studied perspective save the project." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"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." Booklist

Review:

"A powerful and moving look at coming-of-age during the Cold War....Lord's piercing observations strike a common chord as she examines how gender roles and stereotypes have evolved over the past thirty years." Laura Ruttig, Children's Literature

Review:

"Emotionally satisfying...Astro Turf works best of all...as a moving memoir of the difficult love between a daughter and father." New York Times

Review:

"[Lord's] prose style...combines the madcap with the abstruse. I was blown away by this book. Lord reminds us once again that good and evil really are inextricably combined..." Carolyn See, Washington Post

Review:

"Engaging...part memoir, part cultural history, part paean to unmanned space exploration." Fritz Lanham, Houston Chronicle

Review:

"[A]n insightful collection of stories that illuminate the evolution of gender roles and political ideologies from the mid-20th century until today." Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Synopsis:

M. G. Lord is an author and critic. Since 1995 she has been a regular contributor to The New York Times Book Review and The New York Times 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. She lives in Los Angeles.
During the late 1960s, while M. G. Lord was becoming a teenager in Southern California and her mother was dying of cancer, Lord's father—an archetypal, remote rocket engineer—disappeared into his work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, building the space probes of the Mariner Mars 69 mission. Thirty years later, Lord found herself reporting on the JPL, triggering childhood memories and a desire to revisit her past as a way of understanding the ethos of rocket science. Astro Turf is the result of her journey of discovery.

Remembering her pain at her father's absence, yet intrigued by what he did, Lord captures him on the page as she recalls her own youthful, eccentric fascination with science and space exploration. Into her family's saga she weaves the story of the legendary JPL—examining the complexities of its cultural history, from its start in 1936 to the triumphant Mars landings in 2004. She illuminates its founder, Frank Malina, whose brilliance in rocketry was shadowed by a flirtation with communism, driving him from the country even as we welcomed Wernher von Braun and his Nazi colleagues. Lord's own love of science fiction becomes a lens through which she views a profound cultural shift in the male-dominated world of space. And in pursuing the cause of her father's absence she stumbles on a hidden guilt, understanding "the anguish his proud silence caused both him and me, and how rooted that silence was in the culture of engineering."

As in her book Forever Barbie, which demystified an icon of feminine culture, Lord brings her insight to bear on a bastion of American masculinity, opening our eyes in unexpected and memorable ways.

"Astro Turf works well as a brief, clear history of a field and the lab that embodied it. It works even better as a piece of cultural criticism. [It] works best of all, though, as a moving memoir of the difficult love between a daughter and father."—The New York Times Book Review
"Astro Turf works well as a brief, clear history of a field and the lab that embodied it. It works even better as a piece of cultural criticism. [It] works best of all, though, as a moving memoir of the difficult love between a daughter and father."—The New York Times Book Review

 

"I had absolutely no idea of her arduous childhood, [Lord's] adult life, her interest in space, her ultimate affection for—and forgiveness of—her father, no knowledge of her prose style, which combines the madcap with the abstruse. I was blown away by this book. Lord reminds us once again that good and evil really are inextricably combined, that the legacy of these sometimes bumbling founders includes the presence of a JPL float in this year's Rose Parade and the ongoing discoveries of those aptly named JPL robots poking right now across the surface of Mars: Spirit and Opportunity."—Carolyn See, The Washington Post

 

"Engaging . . . part memoir, part cultural history, part paean to unmanned space exploration."—Fritz Lanham, Houston Chronicle

 

"Astro Turf is worlds apart from Lord's splendid debut book, Forever Barbie, but the writing is as powerful and the intellectual scope as daring. Where Barbie was a wry study of a totemic troll, Astro Turf is a personal trek through a murky era. Decades later, looking back at the Space Age through the eyes of an adult journalist, Lord sees sexism and dysfunction, and her observations are mordantly funny."—The San Diego Union Tribune

 

"In many respects this is a remarkable book . . . it is an enormously valuable addition to the literature [on the history of spaceflight]."—Roger D. Launius, Chair, Division of Space History, National Air and Space Museum

 

"Exploring America's collective memory of glory rides to the Moon and Mars, M.G. Lord chases the contrail of her absent father. This book blends its own rocket fuel—one part daughter's love to two parts popular culture—and the launch makes a gorgeous explosion."—Dava Sobel, author of Longitude and Galileo's Daughter

 

"Cultural historian Lord 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 . . . Astro Turf is . . . a captivating look at human foibles, family forgiveness, wins, and losses."—Bookmarks Magazine

 

"Astro Turf is . . . a captivating look at human foibles, family forgiveness, wins, and losses."—Booklist

 

"In a book that is part investigative history, part cultural analysis, and part memoir, Lord aims to sketch the history of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) within its historical and cultural context. She discusses the persecution of alleged Communist scientists working at JPL, the adoption of Nazi scientists such as Werner von Braun into the American scientific elite, and the rise of women engineers at JPL. She also touches on the persecution of homosexuals in the scientific community and the relationship between the science fiction of Robert Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, and Ursula K. Le Guin and engineering culture . . . [Lord] covers important new ground in her telling of alleged Communist JPL scientist Frank Malina's persecution and immigration to France."—Jana Beck, Library Journal

 "Cultural critic Lord's sharp turns from family affairs to JPL history result in wonderful discoveries for readers."—Publishers Weekly

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 the New York Times 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. She lives in Los Angeles.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780802777393
Author:
Lord, M G
Publisher:
Walker & Company
Author:
Lord, M. G.
Subject:
General science
Subject:
History
Subject:
Aeronautics & Astronautics
Subject:
Astrophysics & Space Science
Subject:
Physics-Astrophysics
Edition Description:
Trade Paperback
Publication Date:
20060231
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
41 BandW images
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
5-1/8 x 7-1/4

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Related Subjects


Reference » Science Reference » Technology
Science and Mathematics » Astronomy » Space Exploration
Science and Mathematics » History of Science » General
Science and Mathematics » Physics » Astrophysics

Astro Turf: The Private Life of Rocket Science New Trade Paper
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$15.25 In Stock
Product details 256 pages Walker & Company - English 9780802777393 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Astro Turf is a witty and perceptive look at the history of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California as seen from the daughter of one of its leading rocket scientists. Lord's lens is trained on the macho culture of the program, the culture that set her father at such emotional remove, as well as America's pop culture of the 1960s. What is at once a social history of the space travel program is also a poignant and thoroughly engaging ode to a daughter's love.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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. Agent, Eric Simonoff. (Jan.) Forecast: This quirky mix of women's history, family memoir and science could reach a wide audience, aided by a blurb from Dava Sobel." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Lord's jauntily feminist perspective...sets this effort apart from the Right Stuff pack....The text sometimes reads like a glib hybrid of science history and tabloid gossip....Lord's snappy prose and studied perspective save the project."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "A powerful and moving look at coming-of-age during the Cold War....Lord's piercing observations strike a common chord as she examines how gender roles and stereotypes have evolved over the past thirty years."
"Review" by , "Emotionally satisfying...Astro Turf works best of all...as a moving memoir of the difficult love between a daughter and father."
"Review" by , "[Lord's] prose style...combines the madcap with the abstruse. I was blown away by this book. Lord reminds us once again that good and evil really are inextricably combined..."
"Review" by , "Engaging...part memoir, part cultural history, part paean to unmanned space exploration."
"Review" by , "[A]n insightful collection of stories that illuminate the evolution of gender roles and political ideologies from the mid-20th century until today."
"Synopsis" by ,
M. G. Lord is an author and critic. Since 1995 she has been a regular contributor to The New York Times Book Review and The New York Times 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. She lives in Los Angeles.
During the late 1960s, while M. G. Lord was becoming a teenager in Southern California and her mother was dying of cancer, Lord's father—an archetypal, remote rocket engineer—disappeared into his work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, building the space probes of the Mariner Mars 69 mission. Thirty years later, Lord found herself reporting on the JPL, triggering childhood memories and a desire to revisit her past as a way of understanding the ethos of rocket science. Astro Turf is the result of her journey of discovery.

Remembering her pain at her father's absence, yet intrigued by what he did, Lord captures him on the page as she recalls her own youthful, eccentric fascination with science and space exploration. Into her family's saga she weaves the story of the legendary JPL—examining the complexities of its cultural history, from its start in 1936 to the triumphant Mars landings in 2004. She illuminates its founder, Frank Malina, whose brilliance in rocketry was shadowed by a flirtation with communism, driving him from the country even as we welcomed Wernher von Braun and his Nazi colleagues. Lord's own love of science fiction becomes a lens through which she views a profound cultural shift in the male-dominated world of space. And in pursuing the cause of her father's absence she stumbles on a hidden guilt, understanding "the anguish his proud silence caused both him and me, and how rooted that silence was in the culture of engineering."

As in her book Forever Barbie, which demystified an icon of feminine culture, Lord brings her insight to bear on a bastion of American masculinity, opening our eyes in unexpected and memorable ways.

"Astro Turf works well as a brief, clear history of a field and the lab that embodied it. It works even better as a piece of cultural criticism. [It] works best of all, though, as a moving memoir of the difficult love between a daughter and father."—The New York Times Book Review
"Astro Turf works well as a brief, clear history of a field and the lab that embodied it. It works even better as a piece of cultural criticism. [It] works best of all, though, as a moving memoir of the difficult love between a daughter and father."—The New York Times Book Review

 

"I had absolutely no idea of her arduous childhood, [Lord's] adult life, her interest in space, her ultimate affection for—and forgiveness of—her father, no knowledge of her prose style, which combines the madcap with the abstruse. I was blown away by this book. Lord reminds us once again that good and evil really are inextricably combined, that the legacy of these sometimes bumbling founders includes the presence of a JPL float in this year's Rose Parade and the ongoing discoveries of those aptly named JPL robots poking right now across the surface of Mars: Spirit and Opportunity."—Carolyn See, The Washington Post

 

"Engaging . . . part memoir, part cultural history, part paean to unmanned space exploration."—Fritz Lanham, Houston Chronicle

 

"Astro Turf is worlds apart from Lord's splendid debut book, Forever Barbie, but the writing is as powerful and the intellectual scope as daring. Where Barbie was a wry study of a totemic troll, Astro Turf is a personal trek through a murky era. Decades later, looking back at the Space Age through the eyes of an adult journalist, Lord sees sexism and dysfunction, and her observations are mordantly funny."—The San Diego Union Tribune

 

"In many respects this is a remarkable book . . . it is an enormously valuable addition to the literature [on the history of spaceflight]."—Roger D. Launius, Chair, Division of Space History, National Air and Space Museum

 

"Exploring America's collective memory of glory rides to the Moon and Mars, M.G. Lord chases the contrail of her absent father. This book blends its own rocket fuel—one part daughter's love to two parts popular culture—and the launch makes a gorgeous explosion."—Dava Sobel, author of Longitude and Galileo's Daughter

 

"Cultural historian Lord 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 . . . Astro Turf is . . . a captivating look at human foibles, family forgiveness, wins, and losses."—Bookmarks Magazine

 

"Astro Turf is . . . a captivating look at human foibles, family forgiveness, wins, and losses."—Booklist

 

"In a book that is part investigative history, part cultural analysis, and part memoir, Lord aims to sketch the history of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) within its historical and cultural context. She discusses the persecution of alleged Communist scientists working at JPL, the adoption of Nazi scientists such as Werner von Braun into the American scientific elite, and the rise of women engineers at JPL. She also touches on the persecution of homosexuals in the scientific community and the relationship between the science fiction of Robert Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, and Ursula K. Le Guin and engineering culture . . . [Lord] covers important new ground in her telling of alleged Communist JPL scientist Frank Malina's persecution and immigration to France."—Jana Beck, Library Journal

 "Cultural critic Lord's sharp turns from family affairs to JPL history result in wonderful discoveries for readers."—Publishers Weekly

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