Letter: Reach for the stars

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The Independent Culture
Sir: I take issue with Sir Martin Rees's assertion that the International Space Station is not "inspiring" ("So where is everybody else living?", 5 November).

I was appalled to read such a put-down from a member of the Committee for the Public Understanding of Science and to learn how out of touch he is with the vision and aspirations of the young. How far out of touch can best be judged by the number of youngsters who have just participated in the European Space Agency's competitions for young people.

These competitions offered people aged 8-12 and 13-15 the chance to see the launch of an Ariane-5 rocket from ESA's space centre in French Guiana. Fourteen young people in the first category and 13 in the second (including one in each from the United Kingdom) will have the excitement of a lifetime when they see the Ariane-5 lift off into space.

As the immediate past chairman of the Space Education Trust, I came into contact almost daily with youngsters who wanted to be astronauts - the equivalent of my generation's dream and ambition of being a train driver. None have any chance of becoming astronauts unless they go overseas and become a "British-born astronaut". How long will we in this country be willing to eat the breadcrumbs off the giants' table?

ARTHUR BOURNE

President Emeritus, European Union of Science Journalists' Associations

Flitwick, Bedfordshire

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