Leading article: Crash landing

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The Independent Online

There was something irresistibly European about the way our continent's first lunar mission ended yesterday - by crash-landing on the moon at about 4,500 miles per hour and exploding into thousands of fragments.

Still better was that the grave scientists at the European Space Agency Scientists at Darmstadt pronounced this a "complete success", as well as the fact that it all ended in the evocatively named Lake of Excellence.

Oh, the projects of Europe and their successful, explosive endings. What a rich history of them there has been. The subject seems to cry out for a moving opera, as the fate of the Smart-1 spacecraft seems to echo so many other European episodes.

Our opera on the theme might open, for example, with the Crusades. Now, there was a well intentioned European project, until it crashed into Saladin, that is.

Or, we could start much more recently, with Europe's first attempts to intervene in the former Yugoslavia in 1991. Then the foreign of Luxembourg memorably pronounced the words: "The hour for Europe has come". Alas, the hour had come only for a Smart-1-style ending, as a plethora of European peace initiatives crashing landed not into the Lake of Excellence but into the Lake of Serbia.

More recently was the business of writing a European constitution. That project exploded into a lake of French voters.

Should we just give in, or up? No way. "Bestimmt nicht", as they might say in Darmstadt. We will have more projects in the air quite soon and each, true to our best European traditions, will go out with a bang, and with applause.

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