Astro Turf by M. G. Lord

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

About M. G. Lord

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M.G. Lord is a celebrated cultural critic and investigative journalist, and the author of Forever Barbie and Astro Turf. Since 1995 she has been a regular contributor to the New York Times Book Review and the Times's Arts & Leisure section. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, Vogue, the Wall Street Journal, and ArtForum. Before becoming a freelance writer, Lord was a syndicated political cartoonist and a columnist for Newsday. She teaches at the University of Southern California and lives in Los Angeles.
Published May 26, 2009 by Walker Books. 256 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Professional & Technical, Science & Math, Computers & Technology. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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The daughter of an aerospace engineer tells occasionally scandalous personal stories about the geniuses who engineered the space race, while coming to terms with her father's detachment from her life.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Astro Turf

The New York Times

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A biography and a memoir revisit the strange, ultra-masculine beginnings of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Mar 06 2005 | Read Full Review of Astro Turf

Bookmarks Magazine

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 M...

Jan 12 2008 | Read Full Review of Astro Turf

The Space Review

Both are abstract ideals, which no human person can ever fully embody.” (The Barbie reference is not a throwaway line: Lord’s previous book was Forever Barbie, a history of the doll and how it shaped American culture.) While Astro Turf is not an exhaustive examination of how JPL or NASA has becom...

Mar 07 2005 | Read Full Review of Astro Turf

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