Campaign to send Brits into space

A major UK campaign will be launched tomorrow to send British astronauts into space and, eventually, to Mars. The British Interplanetary Society is calling for Brits to fly to the International Space Station by 2010 and to be on the Moon with the Americans by 2020.

I’ve reported before how Nasa chief Mike Griffin has invited the UK to join America in returning to the Moon.

Now the BIS say the Government would need to increase the UK’s annual civil space budget of £200 million by just five per cent to join the manned space programme.

A modest £50 million project over five years could establish a small UK astronaut corps and fund two ten-day missions to fly to the ISS via the regular Soyuz spacecraft visits.

For the future, this UK astronaut group could be enlarged to join international missions to the Moon and, eventually, the manned exploration of Mars. The BIS says this would provide valuable opportunities for scientific research and help inspire our children, the explorers and scientists of tomorrow.

The BIS’s Britons in Space campaign says that nations that have astronauts have a much better chance of inspiring young people to take up science and engineering courses. The Government has already begun a review of its space policy. But it has historically opted out of human space flight and it has made no commitment to change that position, despite an invitation from NASA to join America in exploring the Moon.

The BIS says that, in comparison with other European countries who have an active manned space interest, the UK is only spending about a quarter of what it should do to have a meaningful space industry.

The UK is often quoted as having the world’s fourth largest economy. It also has the second largest aerospace industry, but in fact it only applies three per cent of this industry for space related work, whilst Europe is 10-15 per cent and the US is 25 per cent, says a spokesman. This has led to little interest in the UK’s space activities by the general public, despite it being a £4 billion industry with 16,000 direct employees.

Britons in Space campaign director Nick Spall said yesterday: “We call on Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to make Britain a leading 21st century technological nation. The Government must agree to help inspire our children to go into science and make a solemn commitment to fund the UK civil space programme with an extra five percent each year to enable Space Minister Malcolm Wicks to oversee a modest UK astronaut programme.

“The Prime Minister has said his priorities are education, education, education. What better science and technology educational inspiration could there be than manned space flight?

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