Friday, 1 May 2009

Today's reading...and viewing

The disso challenge is to read and/or view relevant material for an hour a day, with a view to having at least one chapter - and possibly two - drafted by the end of the month.

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.

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