A damp squib?

Today's much heralded launch of the UK Space Agency has happened. The launch took place at the QEII Conference Centre; a venue that seems to stop information escaping it. So far there have been a few photos from Brian Cox, some tweets, and an article by Jonathan Amos about a 'Muscular' UK Space Agency. UKSA (uck-sa?) has a logo which does look a little like Dad's Army. It doesn't yet have a website which I'd have expected to go live with this press conference.

Apart from a logo and a name, it's the details of the new space agency that everyone is waiting for. We still haven't heard who will lead it or what the executive structure will be. In terms of finances, apparently Lord Mandelson has said that the UKSA budget will be £230 million but it isn't clear if that replaces or adds to the £268 million spent by BNSC and its partners. This could actually be a £38 million cut in spending depending on how much double accounting is going on in those various figures. Oh and the new agency is apparently going to increase its impact on the UK economy to £40 billion per year compared to the current ~£6 billion.

For me, the launch has been a let down. We were led to believe that UKSA would be a NASA for the UK. The reality is far from it. The graphic in Jonathan Amos's article shows how much less we spend compared to Germany, France and Italy. NASA has a budget of something like $16 billion per year. The US has about 6.4 times the GDP of the UK and 5 times the population but spends 40 times more on NASA (not including relevant NSF grants) than we spend on space.

I want to have an fantastic, inspiring, space agency. I want us to invest in it like we mean it. I want a NASA.

I feel as though we've got a refurbished, second-hand agency that might collapse as soon as it leaves the launchpad and never make it past the General Election. Come on UK. You can do so much better.

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Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Tuesday 23rd Mar 2010 (13:22 GMT) | Permalink
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