While the finer points of language and culture can get “lost in translation” at such an international conference such as International Astronautical Congress, the European Space Agency (ESA) might just have ruined its chances of ever successfully marketing Ariane 6 in USA.  For it transpires that one of the all solid first stage configurations which could be chosen for the launch vehicle is called the non-politically correct sounding “Faggot” which just might upset the US gay community there.

Trying hard not to link the above note directly here, this writer is embrarrassed to recount how, in trying to chase the NASA Administrator Charles Bolden as he rushed to his press conference, he found himself with NASA’s leader in one of the washrooms at IAC Naples.  Trying to make small talk while washing his hands (as you do in these situations), your correspondent slightly put his foot in it when he derided US toilet cubicle doors for being definitely too short with too much of a gap at the bottom (even at NASA’s HQ in Washington D.C.).  Well, you never know when a deranged limbo dancer might be passing by. 

Ex-marine pilot and astronaut, Major-General Bolden let that one pass, but this writer further put his foot in it further (or rather his pen) when, just before the press conference, he accidently signed the condolence book for the late Apollo 11 hero astronaut, Neil Armstrong, right underneath Bolden’s signature, not realising that the page had been reserved for astronauts only. Ah well, this writer will just have to become an astronaut now.  All he has to do is lose about 20kg in weight, gain about 20 points in I.Q., and lose about 20 years of age.  Easy really.

It was not just that that made you correspondent a bit mournful.  He realised that he will probably never match technical reporting capabilities of that greatest-ever reporter in this town, no – not Peter B. de Selding – though he is showing some promise, but actually Pliny the Younger, who accurately described the ash cloud and pyroclastic flow of the Vesuvius eruption in AD 79 as it buried the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. 

Still, at least your corpulent correspondent could console himself with an excellent Italian ice cream – especially in all his favourite flavours: strawberry, chocolate, vanilla.  Or maybe not. After all his IAC Naples faux pas, your disheartenend correspondent found that he did not actually fancy licking a large Neapolitan. J (Apologies to BBC Radio 4’s “I’m sorry I haven’t a clue” for pinching that one.)  

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By the way, as we note that the SpaceX Dragon CRS-1 flight was actually carrying ice cream up to the astronauts on its recent flight to the Internatoinal Space Station, before the crew tries to recreate a “Neapolitan” ice cream which is famous for having three flavours: strawberry, vanilla and chocolate side-by-side, the will realise that they only have about one and a half of the three flavours (they have vanilla swirled with chocolate sauce). 

Mind you, before they get upset they should also know that the “Neopolitan” design is not actually from Naples. In fact, it is a US invention of the late 19th Century.  This is unlike the Neapolitiana pizza whose truly Italian origin led to the recipe being safeguarded under EU law at Italy’s request.   When it comes to pizzas at least, Italians, and especially Neopolitans, will not be licked!