Letters - Waste of space

Christopher Bray's scepticism of human space exploration in his review of Andrew Smith's Moondust (Books, 18 April) does not go far enough. The astronauts Smith interviewed apparently continue to peddle myths that non-stick frying pans and carbon fibres were spin-offs of the space industry. DuPont's Teflon was in fact discovered in 1938, and Teflon-coated kitchenware was all the rage by the time Yuri Gagarin orbited the world in 1961. The high-strength carbon fibre was largely the product of UK aeronautics, not US astronautics, in the 1960s. These myths would not matter so much if "practical spin-offs" were not still routinely invoked to justify pointless manned space exploration projects such as the International Space Station.

Philip Ball
London SE22

This article first appeared in the 25 April 2005 issue of the New Statesman, How the greens were choked to death