Rosetta mission: the future of mankind lies in collective endeavour

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
19 November 2014

Beyond the sensationalist coverage by the media, the landing of the Philea robot on comet 67P was an extraordinary feat of scientific achievement.

It is 48 years since the first unmanned spacecraft was landed on the Moon, by Soviet space scientists, in 1966. At the time, landing a robot on a comet like 67P, which is 1000 times more distant from the Earth than the Moon, moves 40 times faster and is 1000 times smaller, seemed impossible.

The mission is by no means over - there are many more findings to come. Its photographs, calculations, measurements and experiments may tell us many things we still do not know, about how the Earth was formed and how life emerged on this planet. And the more we know about the origins of life, the better we can understand all living organisms, including ourselves and the diseases which we encounter today - and those we will face tomorrow.

Progress without borders

British politicians hailed Philea's successful landing. But, significantly, they didn't say much about one of its most important aspects - that it was the result of unprecedented international co-operation.

The discovery of Comet 67P itself and its study was the work of two Russian astronomers, back in 1969. Later on, the European Space Agency selected this comet as a landing platform for the Philea robot. Pulling off this mission took the collaboration of 300 scientists from 15 different European countries, pooling together many different skills. 50 entities from all over the EU were involved in the design and production of the launcher Ariane, the Rosetta carrier and the Philea robot. And after 20 years of preliminary research and trials, followed by Rosetta's 10 year-long trip to its destination, the project eventually succeeded.

But none of that would have been possible had this effort been confined to just one country - not even the most powerful. Which state would have been willing to shoulder the £1bn cost of a project involving no immediate profits for the biggest companies which control the economy? Above all, which country would have had the wide variety of competencies required for such a project?

But, of course, don't expect British politicians to acknowledge any of this. Today, they bend over backwards to show what good "Britons" they are and how far they are willing to go in order to defend Britain's so-called "national interest" against the EU's alleged "threat". Who, among them, would ever admit to the fact that the national borders dividing Europe and the world have long been obsolete - and that, in fact, they have long become a major obstacle to the progress of society?

Capitalism is the obstacle

But the success of the Philea mission tells us even more, as to the huge progress which could be made if all skills available worldwide were put at the service of society's needs.

For instance, which virus could resist hundreds among the best medical professionals mobilising their skills and facilities across the planet - not just to counter, but to anticipate, an outbreak like the present Ebola epidemic in Africa?

But then, of course, many of these professionals are employed by pharmaceutical giants which would never contribute to such a project unless it promised huge profits for their shareholders. This is why nothing was done against the Ebola threat despite the first warnings issued last March. After all, the victims were "just" poor Africans who could not pay for expensive medicine! And this is also why the research against malaria, one of the oldest and most widespread diseases in the poor countries, was never prioritised - there was not much profit to be made out of it!

Mankind is paying an exorbitant price for this corrupt, profit-driven system. It is this system which drives a wedge between peoples, in order to better enforce the rule of tiny capitalist layers which own everything. What do they care if these "national" divisions cause conflict - and even chronic wars in the poorest parts of the world!

Likewise, it is this crisis-ridden system which is depriving a majority of the planet's population - in the poor as well as in the rich countries - of decent living conditions, by spreading underemployment, poverty and, for too many, starvation.

We need another world. We need a world which promotes the fraternal co-existence of populations, with their culture and history, enriching each other with their differences, without any obstacle between them. We need a world in which all the resources of mankind are put at the service of all, not just of the few. In short we need to free this society of the main cause of its destruction and the main obstacle to its progress - capitalism.