Space: Here Come the Europeans

A rocket named Ariane ends the U.S. and Soviet space monopoly

It sounds like one of those Brechtian place names out of Mahaggony, where mysterious and sinful things occur. And its equatorial locale is primitive and threatening. Jungle encroaches almost to the doorsteps of Kourou (pop. 7,000), in French Guiana. Only a few miles offshore lies Devil's Island, once the world's most infamous penal colony, and local waters teem with piranha and alligators.

Yet Kourou is very much a part of the space age. Out of this unlikely old colonial enclave in the New World,...

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