Science: boom and bust

June 7, 1996

Britain's scientists suffered a double blow this week. Space researchers in London, Cambridge, Warwick and other universities are facing the loss of years of work and many valuable research projects after the four Cluster satellites carrying their experiments were destroyed in an explosion just 40 seconds into their launch at Kourou, French Guiana.

If the project is now revived, it will take years to come to fruition. And the European Space Agency is already so short of money that it may be abandoned instead.

In addition, new research published this week shows that British science is being eaten away by a less spectacular but more pervasive hardware problem. Its equipment is now so outdated that major multinationals are looking abroad for research collaborations. They are avoiding what one research director called "tired-looking departments with pensioned equipment".

Details pages 6-7 Leader page 13

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