I missed this, the ESA put out the video on their YouTube channel before Christmas, but if I keep quiet about that maybe no one will notice. Ariane is now 30 years old.
The first Ariane launched from Kourou in French Guiana on Christmas Eve 1979. The Kourou site sounds like a convenient a tropical jungle remote from ESA headquarters. However, as Alice Gorman has found, not everyone finds it exotically distant.
Ariane could also be considered an American success story too. The reason the French and Germans needed to build it was that Richard Nixon prevented the commercial use of European satellites launched on US Delta rockets. That forced Europe into building its own independent rocket which now it one of the most commercially successful launchers. You can read more about Ariane on Jonathan Amos’s blog Spaceman, which I’ve just discovered, or more about Kourou on Alice Gorman’s blog Space Age Archaeology.Google+