Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Off to the Cape

Well, still no funding for the PhD, and a significant rewrite to be done on the disso, but I'm feeling positive!

I've decided to take up the PhD place and beg, steal and borrow my way through year 1 with the aim of attracting at least enough funding to cover my research trips. Hopefully i can write around the PhD commercially, and while it won't pull in much money, it may open a few doors that otherwise might remain closed. Anyway, that's the plan.

On the disso front, today was a bit of an epiphany and I'm moving from chronicler to prosecutor - presenting my thesis more of an evidenced case than the holistic story of 57-62. The premise remains the same: Eisenhower was bullied into a space race with the Soviets by an unexpectedly antagonistic media. Khrushchev exploited public/media unease and consistently raised the stakes as a means to enhance his personal prestige and that of the USSR in the eyes of the world. When forced into action, Eisenhower made a shrewd move, establishing NASA as a civilian agency beyond the control of any of the armed services. The turnaround in the media's perception of Eisenhower as a space race warrior was marked. In '57, Khrushchev was Newsweek's Man of the Year. In '59, it was Ike. Kennedy fought his way into the White House playing the missile gap card, but was actually ambivalent towards any race in space. Expediency, particularly the need to react to both the Bay of Pigs and Gagarin, underpinned the May 1961 'pledge' which still didn't really set the public on fire until John Glenn's Friendship Seven successfully put the United States in manned orbit. That public fire was stoked by a pincer movement of Washington rhetoric and NASA-endorsed Life whitewash which jointly created the 'Right Stuff' heroes that continued the Lewis and Clark frontier narrative into the technological white heat of the 1960s. From being the spiky prompter of US space action, the media became the drum-beater for the New Frontier, sadly lacking in sufficiently tough questioning around NASA's aims and startlingly limited goal.

Anyway, I'm off to the US and should hit Cape Canaveral next week, setting foot on the old Mercury stamping ground for the first time since 1979. I've been to the Kennedy Space Center since, but not out to the old military ranges and launch areas since my very first trip to Florida. I'm looking forward to making the reacquaintance.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Uncomfortably numb

Okay, about 28 hours ago, the bottom dropped out of my academic world...or so it seemed.

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.