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.

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