Friday, 30 April 2010

Sputnik Mania

Finally got my hands on the film Sputnik Mania yesterday and watched it last night. While Hoffman does well to pull together the narrative strands around the story, I was slightly disappointed by his grasp of the history and glossing of some of the facts.

There's little of the battle that raged within the US armed forces as to which would send the first US satellite into space, and too much clever editing has constructed a narrative to fit the film rather than the facts in reference to exactly what happened when and as a consequence of what - Von Braun, for instance is pictured at the launch of the Jupiter/Redstone, when he was in Washington, and huis Disney programmes from the mid-50s areplayed out as if they were aired during the Sputnik Autumn.

While my thesis is that the media not Joe Public created the 'mania' the film's line suggested that the reaction to the launch was merely a reaction to the US loss of prestige. It missed some of the subtlty of the Democrat reaction as the likes of Johnson and Symington manoevered into a strong position for the fight for the 1960 Presidential Candidate nomination.

Though the film was fun to watch, it took an angle on the Sputnik story - good for a film maker: bad for hostorographical research.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Progress...slow progress

Last week was a good week for the PhD work.

First, I heard I'd been awarded a $500 travel grant from the Eisenhower Foundation to help with my visit to Abilene. Then, I made contact with two of the key names on my research hit list.

First up was Walter Mondale - former US VP, but, for this work, most interesting as a vocal critic of the Apollo space program. We've been exchanging emails for a few weeks. And, while he initially found my line of questioning judgmental, he has now answered most of those questions - and raised a few further questions for me.

Second, I reached a guy called Brian O'Leary. Today, an authority on green issues, but at the end of the 60s, a NASA astronaut in training. O'Leary quit the program, frustrated by NASA, frustrated by the lack of opportunity for true science. His insight into NASA's purpose and image making will be revealing.