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KLIATTAGERANGE: Ages 15 to adult.
Lord’s memoir focuses on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where her father was an engineer in a male-dominated world. We meet the heroes of early rocket science from the 1930s on, especially Frank Malina, Robert Goddard, Wernher von Braun and J. Robert Oppenheimer. We shudder at the McCarthy witch-hunts of the 1950s. We witness the tragedy of the fire in 1967 that killed three Apollo astronauts as well as the success of the Mariner probes of the ‘60s and ‘70s. We rejoice in the slow but steady addition of women to NASA’s programs. The first pictures of Mars are a stunning achievement. Mixed in with this history are the personal stories of the people involved, including the author’s parents. Her mother died of cancer when the author was a teenager and later she drifted away from her distant father. She learned of family secrets surrounding the death of her grandfather and the family’s failing fortunes just before the Depression. Lord’s book is thus both personal and historical. It is a testament to her work as a cultural historian and an investigative journalist. Reviewer: Janet Julian
March 2008 (Vol. 42, No.2)