Let Comrade Sarko go to Mars if he wants
The EU plan to conquer space evokes memories of Soviet Russia, says the Tory MEP
The EU may be in the gutter, but it’s looking up at the stars. This week, President Nicolas Sarkozy called for a substantial enlargement of the European Space Programme, including a mission to Mars.
Why Mars? Well, here Sarko allows himself a spot of Cartesian logic that non-Frenchmen may find hard to follow: "Because Mars is there and Mars is accessible to the technologies available to humanity, we cannot refuse to attempt this adventure".
It has, of course, been a long-standing desire of successive French presidents to place a Frenchman sur la lune, and to use Europe as a vehicle for doing so. Indeed, in the European Constitution, Valery Giscard d'Estaing managed to define "space exploration" as one of the core values and objectives of the European Union, alongside peace, democracy and justice.
Whatever gets you going, I suppose. But doesn't the whole thing have a slightly Soviet feel to it? A regime that is unpopular in this, sublunary world, wants to distract its people with plans to conquer the solar system.
Needless to say, the plans are pure rhetoric. For Mars is almost unimaginably far from Earth. Many of us have a vague classroom picture of the solar system, in which the planets appear to orbit at regular distances. In fact, space is chiefly empty: that is why we call it space. Specks of matter are tiny and sparse. A manned mission could reach the Moon in three days. To reach Mars would take a minimum of six months. Brussels has neither the resources nor the will to mount such an attempt.
Still, it may take everyone's minds off the referendums they had been promised. And, if Sarko is so keen to place a Frenchman in orbit, it seems mean-spirited not to offer to help. Whether we should pay to bring him back, on the other hand... ·
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