During the research period they realised that the rocket would actually be too heavy to get off the ground unless they got rid of that manual printed in all 37 European dialects. But in the end this week's launch was an enormous example of European cooperation and every country agreed on one thing: that it was their own scientists who had made the greatest contribution to this success. What's more, this milestone shows that Europe now rivals the US when it comes to space exploration.
But not everybody's enthusiastic about the exciting possibilities of space exploration:
This ought to be a mission to inspire our imaginations, but there are plenty of us on the left who are instinctively cynical about any sort of technological breakthrough. And this because underneath it all, there is a vague suspicion that all science is somehow vaguely rightwing. That everything from double physics on Thursday afternoons to man landing on the moon is the sort of nerdy boy's stuff that ought to be automatically sneered at by any self-respecting old leftie. Never mind that science has brought us the cure to countless diseases and clean water and warm homes and laserjet printers that work almost 50% of the time. The bottom line is that the kids who wanted chemistry sets for Christmas were not the ones wearing Rock Against Racism badges or going on the CND marches; indeed they could probably only see nuclear explosions as a fascinating cosmic phenomenon. So for generations on the British left there has been a lazy hostility to any major scientific achievement, whether it was cloning a sheep or keeping Margaret Thatcher's hair fixed in place.
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