THURSDAY

Sometime during the ’60s, the average American’s expansionist fantasy became extraterrestrial. And as kids everywhere traded in six-shooter caps for ray guns, the Clark Kent crowd set about working on the hard science behind what would, two decades later, make for great big-screen fodder. It was about this time that M.G. Lord stopped seeing much of her father. A rocket engineer at the famed Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, Calif., Lord’s dad spent most of his time figuring out how to successfully probe Mars. In Astro Turf: The Private Life of Rocket Science, Lord explores her lost relationship with her father and the legendary organization that ate up so much of his time. It’s not a terribly moving work, nor does it break new ground in deciphering the motivations behind the übermotivated fathers of the ’boomers. Astro Turf does, however, turn out to be more than a simple memoir of Lord’s life; the history she includes—both of the early space race and of more recent JPL successes—is illuminating and well-woven into her work. This combination makes for a fast read—and leaves no doubt that, though it might have been rad to be able to say, “My dad helped do that” when some satellite started beeping Martian data back to Earth, it would have been much more satisfying to have a father. Lord speaks at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17, at Olsson’s Books & Records, 2111 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. Free. (703) 525-4227. (Mike Kanin)