Monday, 20 April 2009

Charlie Duke: what a nice guy

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

Good news - but the going's getting tough

Good news on several fronts this week. First, my penultimate Masters essay gained an A grade. But what really had me smiling all day yesterday was a note from Apollo 16's Charlie Duke saying he's happy to meet up over the weekend to answert my research questions.

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

Turning to face the moon

Once my PC comes back from hospital where it's in the midst of a processor and mother board transplant - having fried the present incumbents - I'll be bashing out my last ever Brunel essay before the disso research really kicks in.

My research outline is now complete although it's not due 'til May. And before then i hope to get at least one or two more interviews in the bag and also relink in with some of the guys who were really helpful last summer - the likes of Asif Siddiqi and Roger Launius.

I'm hoping, probably against hope, that I can catch up, at least by phone with Apollo 16's Charlie Duke who's in the UK for an autograph show this weekend. I'm sure these shows please a lot of people, but they're hopeless for anyone planning a research conversation and the organisers are seemingly less than willing to help anyone - however legitimate their request - unless we're prepared to part with the readies.....readies I haven't got.

Oh well, here's hoping.