Examination of Witness (Questions 220
TUESDAY 11 APRIL 2000
PROFESSOR C T PILLINGER,
220. Obviously it comes back to the old money
situation but are you happy with the division of the United Kingdom
space budget between ESA and the national programme?
(Professor Pillinger) I am a big fan of ESA. I think
we have to be in ESA in order to have the opportunities that they
221. So you accept the situation and you are
happy with it?
(Professor Pillinger) I did not say I accept the situation;
I said I am a fan of ESA.
222. I am a fan of Bolton Wanderers but it does
not help them win the cup. But that is another matter!
(Professor Pillinger) Let's just say that there are
an enormous number of ideas being generated within the United
Kingdom, somebody else referred to this. We are not a big enough
player, in my opinion, in space business and certainly in planetary
science to benefit from all the ideas that we generate.
223. Obviously the most important question,
which I presume I know the answer to, is would you like to see
more national funding?
(Professor Pillinger) I am not here to worry about
one or two per cent or five per cent. I am sure it would make
the administrators much more happy. I really think you ought to
put your sights higher and go for big ideas and projects. If you
have something which comes up like Beagle 2 which you cannot fit
into the budget, somebody should be saying, "Is this a special
issue? Should we be thinking along the lines of some kind of special
arrangement?" If I made my message quite clear about the
ten-year goal or eight-year goal of getting a sample back from
Mars, a £250 million pot now would do an awful lot do generate
an enormous amount of enthusiasm in the space business. If you
give PPARC a two per cent rise we are not going to be able to
do projects like that. We need to be in the same game as the French
and the Americans. The French have put in £250 million towards
joining the Americans for a Mars sample. Why can Britain not do
that? Britain has got the quality of science and engineering.
We do more on science on Mars than they do in France. I know the
people who are my equivalents. It is an absolute crying shame
that we are not involved as of right in the programme. If we are
sitting there thinking Britain is too clever to miss out on this,
the Americans and French will bring back a Martian sample and
we will get some because we are clever Let's get to the
table and say we want a part of this and we want to be part of
the discussions and our industry wants to be involved in the technology.
224. Maybe the second part of your badge is
the worry that you have. It is "bust" rather than "Mars".
(Professor Pillinger) We ain't going bust; we are
going to Mars. That is the message I am telling people about this
whole project of Beagle. We have gone past the place where we
need sponsors to be there. We are in the era with Saatchi. We
are going to Mars. If you want to be part of this mission, get
on board or you are going to miss out.
225. Do you think there is a lack of joined-up
government when it comes to United Kingdom space policy?
Professor Pillinger) I
told John Battle that at his space seminar in Leeds. He had a
sentence in his space plan that said Mars above all else is inspirational
to the public and I was able to say to him, "In that case,
why don't you think about getting involved in a Mars programme?"
It seems as though somebody wrote that document without knowing
what the opportunities were in space projects at the time.
226. I know you have covered this to some extent
already but looking at your experiences with Beagle 2 an obvious
question is what lessons for United Kingdom space policy do you
think we should draw from that? To some extent you have referred
to that already. Summarising, what are the lessons in your view
for space programmes?
(Professor Pillinger) I actually think that the one
thing I would like to see changed in the UK space administration
is some dedicated resource for our solar system and planets because
I got into this business when the United Kingdom had the biggest
involvement in the Apollo programme outside the US, and I have
seen over 30 years it slip away and I have seen the solar system
committee of PPARC's, it was SORC at the time, disappear. I was
appalled when I learnt that the acronym PPARC stood for Particle
Physics and Astronomy and none of the Ps stood for "Planetary".
My message is that our local environment around our star is the
one system that we can reach out and touch and I think we should
actually be involved in that and there should be some encouragement
in this area, either monetarily or administratively, to save it.
Planetary science and solar system exploration is a terrific subject
to be involved in.
227. On that note we will finish, Professor.
Good luck in your endeavours as far as the Beagle is concerned.
(Professor Pillinger) I know you are bombarded with
paper but I would like to leave you a big pile of media interest
in Beagle so that you can put it in your filing system or browse
it if you ever want to.