IoS letters, emails and online postings (26/07/2009)

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In response to the debate about space travel (19 July), sooner or later the world will run out of resources. No matter how carefully you recycle or reuse materials, no matter how cleverly you seek new ways of living, we will use up energy supplies, minerals, and resources. Current green thinking will just delay the inevitable.

Getting off the Earth is the only way to make us truly sustainable. Our heavy industries could be placed on the Moon or in orbit, greening the Earth in the process.

Why should our notion of the environment stop at 100km above the Earth? We are intimately affected by the Sun, by the tides caused by the Moon, and by the magnetic field around the Earth. Understanding what has happened to Venus has helped us understand the threat of global warming. Earth exists in its own space environment, not as some isolated marble.

It's also worth pointing out that developing space technology has given us the fuel cell, the solar panel, and advanced recycling technology. Another point is that the cost of space programmes is a tiny fraction of what is spent on the military.

Life tends to expand, developing capacities for dealing with new and previously inaccessible environments. Sea life evolved so that life could expand on to land. Land life evolved so that life could expand into the air. As one of the founders of the Russian space programme said, Earth is just a cradle. You cannot live in a cradle for ever.

Kevin Elliott

via email


Space exploration is a good investment because it will further human progress. Think of what resulted from the great era of exploration when Magellan, Cabot, et al contributed to our knowledge of this planet.

It is time for new explorers, new explorations and the spin-offs that will result. Just sitting here bickering about petty religious matters and greedily feeding off diminishing resources will result in our stagnation and possibly our end.

Martin Wragg

Bristol, AVON


Budget wonks tell us space travel is unaffordable. Really? Why didn't they tell us the same thing about President Obama's $700bn "Stimulus" Bill that to date has failed to "stimulate"? We could fund two moon expeditions per year and budget for them in a similar fashion that big governments fund the acquisition of submarines – on a year-to-year basis – and make the process sustained and affordable at the same time.

Daniel Roberts

Cordenons, Italy


I see you repeat the idea that Teflon and non-stick pans were the result of the space race ("10 space spin-offs", 19 July).

Teflon was discovered in 1938 and trademarked in 1945. An early use was for fishing lines that didn't tangle, and a French engineer who was a keen angler had the idea in the 1950s to use it for cookware, founding the company Tefal.

Paul Dormer

Guildford, surrey


For older Londoners there is no doubt as to whether Wernher von Braun was a "Hero or Villain" (19 July). Some years ago I was at a lecture when the screen was lowered making exactly the same sound as a buzz-bomb. The woman next to me called out: "When is it going to stop?" The younger people thought she was mad, but I understood. When a bomb goes off you know that it has not hit your house. But with a V2 you sat in terror wondering where it was.

Audrey Hooson

London n20


Janet Street-Porter's comment on elderly people being "shunted off into care homes" was at best ignorant and at worst deeply insulting ("Older mums are 'selfish', but older dads are studs ...", 19 July). If elderly people's declining health only caused them to dribble "and be a bit embarrassing" how easy their care would be. Perhaps Ms Street-Porter would like to care for an Alzheimer's sufferer for 24 hours. Maybe then she would be in a better position to make such flippant comments. I assure her, making the decision to move a parent into a care home is not easy.

Gill Aldridge

via email


It is inevitable someone will try to cash in on the interest in bees by making fancy plastic hives for sale at £500! ("The bee business", 19 July). Those in the know understand how simple a beehive can be, and can knock one up for £30 or less from reclaimed timber. Download free hive-building plans, plus advice, from


from the messageboard


If people really want to help bees here are some suggestions; stop using pesticides, garden organically and encourage local farmers to do so. Sow wildflowers, plant fruit trees and provide bees with food sources; if you buy honey, buy from a reliable source where bees get to hibernate on the fruits of their own labour.

Astrid H

from the messageboard

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