Select Committee on Trade and Industry Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witness (Questions 220 - 227)

TUESDAY 11 APRIL 2000

PROFESSOR C T PILLINGER, FRS

Mr Hoyle

  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 make available.

  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.

Mr Berry

  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.

Chairman

  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.





 
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