Put a rocket under the Government : LETTERS

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The Independent Online
From Sir Arnold Wolfendale, FRS Sir: The Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Trade and Industry (Letters, 27 January) is right in saying that Britain has allied itself with Germany and Spain in its efforts to trim the European Space Agency budget somewhat. However, what sort of message does this send out to the other European countries - our partners in industrial ventures and the customers for many of our products? Do we really have to seize on the excuse afforded by Germany's short-term shortage of funds - a shortage conditioned by its reunification programme, to yet again plead poverty? I would have thought that the loss of national prestige far outweighed any savings.

No doubt we should work for further improvements in the ESA and, in fact, we should endeavour to reduce the UK's subscription; but the problem is an immediate one - to fund the projects already on the stocks. This is where the Government should act now; a first prize in the National Lottery would be more than enough.

Unlike many other areas of research in the UK, fundamental research in general and space research in particular have only one source of funds - the government.

Yours sincerely, ARNOLD WOLFENDALE President The Institute of Physics London, SW1