UK astronauts - back on the agenda? (2007)


astronauts.jpgA report commissioned by the British National Space Centre (BNSC) concludes that while a compelling rationale for the UK to immediately join the current European Space Agency (ESA) human spaceflight programme does not exist at present, there appear to be excellent scientific opportunities in the period beyond 2020 when there are plans to establish a permanent lunar base. In preparation, it argues, the UK should establish a detailed plan so a decision can be made on UK involvement in human space flight in the decade beginning 2010.

The UK Space Exploration working group report makes a cogent case for expanding the UK's expenditure on space activities citing their positive impact on science education, technology and commercial opportunities. The scientific case rehearsed many of the arguments set out in the RAS commissioned review of 2005 (see HSE Report.pdf)

The official position of the Society is:

"The RAS strongly endorses the scientific benefits of space missions, which have transformed our knowledge of the Earth, the solar system and the universe over the past 50 years.

The RAS holds to the view that the prime driver in selection of scientific space missions, within an inevitably limited budget, should be the quality of the science.

The RAS recognizes that there may be some scientific goals that can only be achieved within a human spaceflight programme. However these goals are likely to be feasible only within a greatly expanded scientific space programme.

The RAS also recognises that the space programme is a powerful attractor of school-children and students towards STEM subjects, and that the space industry is an important sector of the UK economy. Educational, economic and technological arguments might support a UK involvement in human spaceflight. However this would require separate funding, additional to the science budget."

The BNSC is considering the report which will inform its advice to the government on how to take forward the Global Space Exploration Strategy agreed by 14 countries’ space agencies including the UK’s (see gesframework.pdf)