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The prime minister’s latest wheeze is to spend £100bn on magic technology that doesn’t exist yet so that everyone in the country can be tested for Covid-19 all the time. This is called “Operation Moonshot”, which is at least less offensive than his dubbing of ventilator procurement “Operation Last Gasp”. But will it be, as the actual moonshot wasn’t, faked?
It was the Soviets who first actually shot the moon, by crashing their Luna 2 spacecraft into its surface in 1959. By then, people had already been speaking of a “moon shot”, ie a rocket to the moon, for a decade. After Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the actual moon in 1969, “moonshot” acquired a general sense of any very ambitious plan, particularly one that might fail catastrophically.
Credit is due, however, to the writer Edmund Gosse, who in a very bad 1873 poem called “Delight in Nature” first put the words “moon” and “shot” together. In the poet’s rustic fantasy: “I haul the moon-shot fishes from the sea, / I fiddle on the village green, I dance, / I thrill with others in their honest glee.” It remains to be seen whether Boris Johnson is fiddling while the village green burns.
• Steven Poole’s A Word for Every Day of the Year is published by Quercus.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Is Boris Johnson’s ‘moonshot’ just another shot in the dark? | Boris Johnson