The UK in space?

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) has set up a commission to investigate whether the UK should break with tradition by funding human spaceflight and they are asking readers of BBC News Online what they think. This does not mean that the UK will have its own space programme again; mission control won't be in Grimsby and there won't be a launch pad on the Isle of Wight. The debate is actually about the possibility of the UK contributing to ESA's Aurora programme which aims to send people to Mars.

As usual, the comments sent into the BBC cover all the normal ranting positions about how much money should or should not be spent. The BBC website states that the UK 'space budget' is currently £175 million per year (that is about 320 million USD) which has annoyed the people that don't like money to be spent on anything other than health or education. I reckon that this £175 million covers both astronomy and space science, as the annual budget of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) is £300 million and a large amount goes to CERN. Most of this actually gets spent on people (I for one am a beneficiary of a very small portion which I got as a student grant) and UK built hardware; it doesn't get put in a box and sent to the Moon as some people seem to think. It all goes back into our economy and generates knowledge.

Personally, I would prefer to see money spent on robotic missions which can go to more extreme places and do better science for a fraction of the cost of manned flight. Also, a few huge telescopes (at all wavelengths) would be great, but then I am biased. There is an argument for the inspiration that comes from human exploration, but I think the cost is just too huge. One thing I do know is that manned space-flight will not solve over-population problems, as we will not be able to ferry significant - we're talking millions - of people off the planet any time soon.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Thursday 16th Jun 2005 (20:49 UTC) | Permalink
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