Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum 4

Submission from Nicholas Spall


  Further to your Committee's request for evidence regarding UK space policy, I am writing to present my views in relation to the need for a modest UK human spaceflight commitment that is in line with other industrialised countries.

  These opinions concur with the Royal Astronomical Society's independent commission on UK human spaceflight policy (2005), the Wakeham Microgravity Review Panel report (2003) and the resolution of the British Interplanetary Society (2006) that manned spaceflight involvement by the UK is important for the future.

  Britain is the world's 4th-largest economy and yet is the only G8 or industrialised nation not to have an astronaut presence—even countries like Brazil, India, Malaysia and Turkey are developing human spaceflight interests. The nation needs to reverse its currently negative policy on manned spaceflight and become more flexible and broad-minded for good educational, scientific and industrial reasons.

  The benefits of a small-scale human spaceflight programme would be:


  — most teachers and educators recognise that human spaceflight is a very good "inspirational" aspect of science and technology and the efforts to halt the decline in science courses in the UK could be firmly assisted by a national interest in manned spaceflight that is in line with the rest of Europe (see attached article (not printed)).[22]


  — the 2005 RAS report identified how much space exploration and science research requires a manned presence (eg planetary surface drilling work, lunar radio-telescopes, bio-medical research). The UK is already well respected in these broad areas of space science and a manned interest for the future would enhance this work.


  — because of its negative human spaceflight policy, the UK has missed out in recent years with the European aerospace industry's successful involvement with manned projects, including the Columbus lab, the ATV cargo spacecraft and the more recent Soyuz successor studies. A modest astronaut programme would allow British companies to join with future industrial projects undertaken by European and other nations for manned missions to the benefit of the nation's economy and technical expertise.

  My view, in line with the RAS, the Microgravity Review Panel and the BIS, is that an affordable manned approach by the UK is achievable and it would be a positive national investment for the future.


  A low-cost programme to fly two British scientist-astronauts to the ISS on two separate missions as part of the ELIPS research work could occur from 2008—its total cost may be only about £48 million over five years (see the proposal in the attached article (not printed)) and it would form the basis of a long-term UK astronaut corps, allowing the UK to eventually join with the manned aspects of the ESA's Aurora lunar and Mars long-term exploration project.

  Please do take these views into account during your consideration of future UK space policy directions.

October 2006

22   Spall N, British Astronauts, Spaceflight, October 2006, 48, pp 388-392. Back

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