Monday 1 June 2015

Make Europe work: Give MEPs more space

Even on the Moon, Aldrin was closer to planet Earth than many MEPs
Many of us were inspired by last week’s visit to Brussels by Buzz Aldrin. He is hoping to inspire another generation with his plan to put a spacecraft, the Mars Cycler, in permanent Mars/Earth orbit, shuttling between the two planets as a sort of galactic park and ride scheme.
It makes sense, simply because you only need the huge engines and fuel supplies to escape Earth’s gravity, after you’ve reached orbit, the rest requires little effort. Not only that, but the ship can be much larger than the tin can Buzz was sat in and lobbed at the Moon.
The US are still the pioneers, and one of many ways they have benefited from space exploration is by having people like Senator John Glenn elected to high office, where this man of immense courage can continue to make a contribution to public life.
If only Europe could be so forward thinking, you may think, but we could be, if we just had a little imagination. Well, we do. We could start by sending an MEP to the International Space Station for a visit and, of course, lots of publicity, but it’s a bit of a limited concept and, how do we choose the Euro Space Cadet? Given the complex mixture of nationalities and political groups in the parliament, it won’t be easy. Add in the egomania and it all starts to look impractical, a foolish dream.
But let us dream, for there is a solution, a way both out and upwards. We must send the entire parliament into space. But not for a plenary, that would be too costly and inefficient.
We’ve got to pack them all into the Mars Cycler for the full five year term.
I call it ‘Horizon 2019’ or the ‘Heavenly Hemicycle’ if you prefer. Now this innovative project is not without risk. The commercial space sector, will undoubtedly get a huge boost, but there could be some lobbyists who would abuse this important technology sector by hiring rockets to launch themselves in their ‘stealth satellites’ to the orbiting plenary, hoping to ply their sordid trade.
But it would be much more difficult for them, a rare victory for transparency and ethics. It would also help the members. The pressure/air mix can, like flying, lead to a slight deadening of the taste buds, which can only help as the parliament’s cuisine remains relentless in its pursuit of British culinary standards.
The plenary would also raise the profile of the institution and it would be much more watchable when there’s the chance of seeing a dozing Roger Helmer float serenely across the chamber, for example.
It will also put an end to the ludicrous two seat arrangement and almost certainly cost less. There is also that intangible sense of comfort citizens will get from knowing their representatives are ‘out there’ The cycler also means that the ship can be regularly cleaned etc as it orbits Earth by a crew of cheap-labournauts and a refreshment of interns can also take place. Nothing new there.
Of course there’s a downside. There is a chance, the merest hint of a possibility that the craft could go off course and head towards the Sun or Betelgeuse.
But that could be the price of being innovative; a price citizens would feel was worth paying.

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