Harlen Makemson, an associate professor in the School of Communications, delivered a presentation of his research based on his book "Media, NASA, and America's Quest for the Moon" Aug. 27 in a session sponsored by the Faculty Research and Development committee, through which Makemson received some money to complete the work.
Makemson’s book, which was released in June and published by Peter Lang Publishing, explores the relationship NASA had with the media. Makemson said the book centers on three main themes.
First, the book reveals how NASA struggled to provide the American public with wide open information, a charge that was mandated by Congress. Second, it focuses on the relationship between NASA and the press. Third, the book recounts the experience millions of Americans had watching space missions on television and reading about them in newspapers.
He said initially he planned on writing a book about iconic images from 1968, such as photographs depicting the Tet Execution (when General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executed a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon) and Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, when he stumbled on a picture from the Apollo 8 mission.
Makemson began work on the book two years ago and used a sabbatical in the fall of 2008 to complete the writing process. Makemson gathered news footage of lunar missions from Vanderbilt University, studied the Walter Cronkite papers, sifted through the New York Herald-Tribune morgue files and read hours and hours of interviews completed by veteran journalist Robert Sherrod, who set out to write the definitive history of the Apollo program but died before he finished.
The release of “Media, NASA, and America’s Quest for the Moon” coincided with the 40th anniversary of the moon landing. As a result, Makemson was featured in local and national media for his expertise on the topic.