Monday, 29 June 2009

A very classy brush off

With my PhD place confirmed but funding not yet in place, I'm still in the phony war where I'm doing the work, but not yet assured the money will be there to see it through the full three years.

This early stage of research is all about approaching people who were a part of the space race and seeing if they'll be willing to share their side of the story. A couple of weeks ago I approached Senator John Glenn and received this very elegant response. Not really what I wanted to hear...but a very classy brush-off none the less.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Good news...

...on the Masters front. Confirmation of my module grades - 4 As, a B and a C mean I'm just about there for my MA. What the final grade will be is still dependent on the disso - and this week's focus is John Glenn's Friendship 7 flight - to my analysis, the point where Kennedy's rhetoric, NASA's expectation and public opinion finally aligned behind the US Manned Spaceflight program to reach the moon.
Picture sourced from the NASA library

Monday, 15 June 2009

And today's reading list includes....

There have been a few thumps on the hall mat in the last couple of days as Ambrose's biography of Nixon (part 1), Dallek's work on Kennedy and 'Dr. Space' - a biography of Werner Von Braun have all arrived from their respective second hand book sellers.

The political biogs will yield some useful reference material, and my plan's to 'dip into' them as necessary. But I've decided to read the Von Braun book in its entirely this week - and am now about 20% of the way through. It's not that long, but uses a VERY small typeface which makes it more daunting than it might appear.

I also had a great email from Scott Carpenter's daughter, Kris Stoever, over the weekend. She's a writer and editor who co-wrote her father's autobiography a few years ago. It's really nice to be challenged on parts of my hypothesis by someone steeped in both the myth and reality of the space race. I hope to be able to correspond more with Ms. Stoever in the future.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Changes, progress, focus

About 2,500 words of the disso have now been committed to paper in a week that has seen the scaling down of one project and the scaling up of another.

It's only when you get cracking on a project that the size of the elephant really becomes clear - that's been the case with the disso. Trying to find a way to analyse the impact of the media on the race to the moon in 15,000 words without it being so shallow as to be valueless has proved a problem but one that, with my tutor, I've overcome by scaling back the time period of the disso.

Now I'm focusing the disso on the media's role as both catalyst and fuel to the beginnings of the space race really from the pre-Sputnik period to Kennedy's 1961 speech to Congress. My dissertation epiphany occureed last Friday afternoon in a tutorial at Brunel where I was explaining how I was struggling to find a structure to compress the wealth of material I wanted to cover into an MA disso structure. My tutor cut through my floundering by suggesting I focus on just one bite of the elephant for the MA, and segue straight into a PhD to properly cover the project in full.

Now I've planned on doing the PhD for about a year, but actually had planned on getting the MA over and done with and then applying to start on the PhD in 2010. My tutor's comment: 'Why wait? All the people you need to see will be a year nearer death if you don't start work for another 15 months.'..... Good logic.

So, after a frantic weekend of turning many discussions into a formal research proposal, I've actually taken my original Masters disso thoughts and expanded them slightly to fulfil the criteria for an application for formal, funded, PhD research. It feels like a big step forward, and certainly helped get my brain in gear this morning as I pulled the first one sixth of my disso draft together.