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.