Monday, 21 December 2009
Apollo 8 took off 41 years ago today. The world really woke up to the final stages of the US race for the moon when the crew sent back their first pictures of the earth - a small shining bauble hanging in the vast blackness of space.
And in a way that simply wouldn't be countenanced in today's PC world, the three crew members struck exactly the right note of awe and wonder as they read the opening verses of the Bible's Book of Genesis in a Christmas Eve Broadcast as they orbited the moon.
The television broadcast gained, at the time, the highest global viewing figure in TV history. The space race was finally a global event: a world united in wonder.
Friday, 11 December 2009
Friday, 4 December 2009
Friday, 27 November 2009
Monday, 26 October 2009
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Monday, 28 September 2009
Anyway, I'm off to Brunel over lunch to get the darned thing delivered.....two days inside the deadline!
Friday, 25 September 2009
All 57 pages, 16,214 words plus abstract and bibliography....
Time for a read-through this weekend, just to make sure, printing on Monday and then delivery to Brunel on Tuesday. It's definitely a weight off my shoulders. And I get all of a week's break before it's PhD induction day!
Monday, 21 September 2009
Monday, 7 September 2009
Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Thursday, 6 August 2009
Checking in to see how my scholarship application was progressing, I found out that I'd made the first cut - from 200+ applications to 87 nominated by the various Brunel Academic Schools...but hadn't made the final 30 granted awards. Frankly, I was gutted.
I have a PhD place open to me, but currently no funding to enable me to pay the fees or carry out the research. And, because mine was a late application, I also won't be able to apply for any external funding from the mainstream sources until Spring 2010.
So, I've got the option of funding myself this year - something that will be very tough, or deferring for a year...which I really don't want to do.
I'd almost certainly invested too much hope in the scholarship application (only 1 in 6 are successful), and Brunel are still very keen for me to start in September. But yesterday i was utterly crestfallen. To just get started, I need to raise £3.5k by next month - not easy in the current recession. I'm at a bit of a loss at the moment, but am just starting out thinking how I can make this happen.
Friday, 24 July 2009
Still waiting for news on my scholarship - it could still be three weeks before anything definitive. Still, now editing on the disso rather than new research, so it should be a quicker process.
Thursday, 16 July 2009
Tuesday, 7 July 2009
Monday, 29 June 2009
Monday, 22 June 2009
Monday, 15 June 2009
Thursday, 11 June 2009
It's only when you get cracking on a project that the size of the elephant really becomes clear - that's been the case with the disso. Trying to find a way to analyse the impact of the media on the race to the moon in 15,000 words without it being so shallow as to be valueless has proved a problem but one that, with my tutor, I've overcome by scaling back the time period of the disso.
Now I'm focusing the disso on the media's role as both catalyst and fuel to the beginnings of the space race really from the pre-Sputnik period to Kennedy's 1961 speech to Congress. My dissertation epiphany occureed last Friday afternoon in a tutorial at Brunel where I was explaining how I was struggling to find a structure to compress the wealth of material I wanted to cover into an MA disso structure. My tutor cut through my floundering by suggesting I focus on just one bite of the elephant for the MA, and segue straight into a PhD to properly cover the project in full.
Now I've planned on doing the PhD for about a year, but actually had planned on getting the MA over and done with and then applying to start on the PhD in 2010. My tutor's comment: 'Why wait? All the people you need to see will be a year nearer death if you don't start work for another 15 months.'..... Good logic.
So, after a frantic weekend of turning many discussions into a formal research proposal, I've actually taken my original Masters disso thoughts and expanded them slightly to fulfil the criteria for an application for formal, funded, PhD research. It feels like a big step forward, and certainly helped get my brain in gear this morning as I pulled the first one sixth of my disso draft together.
Sunday, 31 May 2009
I knew he was fighting cancer and had assumed that was the reason he hadn't got back to me after our initial telephone call. I didn't realise he was quite so ill.
So, the Apollo circle gets a little smaller still. I'm sad I never got to conclude my conversation properly Paul and properly revisit his time working with ITN. Anyway, I wish him well on his next journey.
Thursday, 28 May 2009
In fact, I now have a few outstanding enquiries that need following up - so that's the plan for the next few days - I'll be bumping those e-mails sent to Lola Morrow (and, I hope Jay Barbree), Paul Haney and Reg Turnhill - all of whom will add significant insight to the piece.
It's good to be writing about the Apollo era as the 40th anniversary approaches since interest levels are high. But that has a flip-side too in that many involved are in great demand.
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
...is an intriguing account of an astronaut who wasn't. Brian O'Leary joined the program in the late '60s as a scientist astronaut, but as Apollo wound down and the follow-ups: Skylab and the long-off Shuttle slowly hove into view, he decided he didn't need NASA, and perhaps the space Administration didn't need him.
The book was written in the early 70s, so I'm looking forward to picking up this near contemporary perspective.
Thursday, 21 May 2009
Monday, 18 May 2009
Friday, 15 May 2009
- A limited appetite for space exploration from 1966 onwards resulting in lukewarm support among the political classes
- A single-objective program that was an end in itself rather than a means to a greater end
- A media increasingly focused on the new and the different (not on repeats of what had been done before)
- Weak leadership in NASA (especially post-Webb)
- A communication culture that was inward looking, focused on engineering achievement rather than presenting an inspiring vision
- Risk-averse, unchallenging and skill-limited communications personnel within NASA.
Thursday, 14 May 2009
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Still nailing down the 'themes' to group the analysis around, but it'll be something like:
- prestige (beating the Soviets)
- adventure (romanticism/frontier spirit)
- discovery (engineering v science)
- ....and there's something around politics/expediency and possibly legacy that I haven't quite bottomed out yet.
In all cases I still want to analyse the impact of NASA's manipulation of the media...and indeed the media's independent response to NASA and whether the tail in fact began to wag the dog even before the moon goal was reached.
I really want to nail the structure this week and start drafting (even skeleton drafting) over the next fortnight.
Friday, 1 May 2009
The outline for the disso - as it stands and subject to revision - is:
Introduction – Before this decade is out
• The context for Kennedy’s speech, briefly covering the early space race
history and how the media had largely been responsible for creating a ‘space
race’ where Eisenhower clearly believed one did not, nor need not, exist.
• Media and the heroic myth – how the likes of ‘Life Magazine’ created an all
new breed of American superhero before any American rocket had cleared the
• How and why Kennedy reached for the moon - Johnson’s role in envisaging
Apollo, and how Khrushchev, Korolev and Gagarin upped the stakes
Superpower aspirations – God speed John Glenn, and Leonov’s expanding suit
• Why the space race mattered
• How Johnson countered Khrushchev’s smoke and mirrors
• The polls and reaction at home
• The press and reaction abroad
Deviations on the road – Apollo 1 and the Soyuz disasters
• NASA and Public Affairs
• Coping with disaster
• Open v closed communication
Space in the televisual age – We come in peace for all mankind
• How television brought the moon closer
• Creating global wonder
• Projecting soft power through scientific logic and soothing words
Budgets, battles and pork belly politics – why the Moon fell out of favour
• The Vietnam effect and the domestic perils of ‘68
• Falling polls
• Apollo 13 and the uniting effect of disaster
• America v the media – the differing impact post Apollo 11 around the world.
Conclusions - only in America, only at this time
• Why the Apollo effect dissipated so quickly
• The dislocation of power – NASA and a mature media
• Could it ever happen again?
It makes sense to start at the beginning, so at 8am today I was watching 'Ordinary Supermen' from Discovery's NASA's Greatest Missions - When we left Earth series, and I've also been reading the opening chapters of Robert Divine's The Sputnik Challenge which is a pretty good read for what's essentially an academic history.
Monday, 20 April 2009
So, yesterday evening saw me in Birmingham at about 6pm, and for the first, and very possibly only, time in my life, I got to sink a pint with a man who has walked on the moon.
Charlie Duke looked fairly fatigued after two days of autograph signing and posing for pictures with collectors, traders and fans and admitted to having had very little sleep over the previous two days.
But, instead of winding down after his pretty relentless personal appearances, he gave up a whole hour to me once the show had ended to talk about the politics and media interest that surrounded not just his Apollo 16 flight, but the whole programme. He was charming, friendly and ever so patient, since I hardly think my line of questioning was revolutionary and it definitely took me a while to get into my stride, though our pints of Stella Artois certainly helped. He was even prepared to talk on long after my recording device was full (ironically I was using 80s technology to talk to a man in his 70s about events that spanned the 60s!).
Did much new emerge? Probably not (certainly not for him!) Do I have ammunition to use in the disso? Definitely - some great quotes and one or two unexpected opinions. Was it worth the 150 mile round-trip on a Sunday evening. Most definitely. Did I miss out not going to the autograph show? No, No, No.
...And did I get an autograph? Well, it was most certainly not appropriate to whip out a camera or open my many Apollo books for the Duke pen. But I thought it was the right thing to ask Charlie to initial my email trail to authenticate our meeting. But he's a really nice guy and went further than that (see above) writing: 'To Mark - All the best on your thesis. Aim high, Charlie Duke.
Today, I'm aiming higher!
Friday, 17 April 2009
We haven't quite pinned down when and where yet - and I know his autograph show commitments will have to come first - so I won't be fully happy until we actually sit down over a coffee and discuss the impact the media had on his NASA career. Anyway, it was great to hear from him. The PhD dream is now beginning to solidify just a little bit more.
However, there are many hurdles to traverse before there's anything concrete about that, and the hard work's now really emerging, using the Masrters Disso as the basis of my research plan. There's considerable cross-over, but I can't dilute either part of my summer's work, as focusing too much on PhD prep will could have a negative impact on the Masters disso and vice versa.
I suppose it's all a question of balance.
Wednesday, 15 April 2009
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
At the moment, they mean nothing - or at least they mean three A graded modules - but I've got a C as well, and I'm still two essays and an exam from completing the other two.
However, if I even get reasonable marks in my last three pieces of course/exam work it'll set the bar even higher for the disso. So the pressure's on - but that's good.