OPPORTUNITY FOR COMMERCIALLY SUCCESSFUL SPACE
The new Minister for Science and Innovation,
Malcolm Wicks, MP, now has the opportunity to improve on his predecessor's
"failed" policy by funding work by Europe's longest-existing
spaceplane company, Bristol Spaceplanes Ltd, of its "Ascender"
sub-orbital passenger vehicle. As discussed above, there is a
great preponderance of reasons in favour of funding this workincluding
the poor economic performance of HMG's investment in satellites,
the positive projections for passenger space travel, the unique
experience of the Bristol Spaceplanes team, the great value of
such an initiative for opening a major new field to British industryand
the minimal costs involved.
The value of "space tourism" goes
far beyond providing a popular new service that many people want
to buy; it goes far beyond the millions of jobs in a new industry
that it will create over the next 30 years. Space tourism is the
only activity that can bring the economies of scale needed to
sharply reduce the cost of space travelwhich has not fallen
at all in 50 years. Well-known as the 50th anniversary of Sputnik
1, 2007 is also the 50th anniversary of the British SR-53 rocket-plane.
If that project had continued, sub-orbital tourism could have
started in Britain 40 years ago. If it had, the world economy
would be in a far better condition today: during these 40 years
the world population has doubled; industrial activity has quadrupled;
and destruction of the environment has increased exponentially.
Low-cost space travel will make a unique contribution to counteracting
world-wide unemployment, resource wars and environmental destruction.
British companies should be leading this activityand
still could if just a small proportion of the space budget is
spent appropriately. British companies can lead European space
tourism efforts, since the most mature vehicle system design is
British. However, the government must provide some funding soon.
This will not only be good for taxpayers, it will also be of the
greatest benefit for young people, who are longing for the optimistic
vision of an open future which this project offersrather
than an increasingly depressing future of accelerating environmental
destruction and unending resource wars.
In view of this potential, it is not possible
to perform a realistic cost/risk/benefit assessment and to conclude
that to have refused funding to Bristol Spaceplanes Ltd for 15
years has been to the benefit of British industry, of British
taxpayers, or of British school-children and students. To the
contrary, this policy has demonstrably imposed and continues to
impose a huge cost on all of these. It is an inexcusable failure
of policy-making greatly to Britain's disadvantage. Both present
and past Ministers responsible should be obliged to end their
"deafening silence" on this matter and explain their
reason for these decisions that have been so damaging to the national
interestand contrary to the clear and timely warning by
the Trade and Industry Select Committee in 2000.