Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum 116

Submission from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)


  NASA has enjoyed a long history of productive cooperation with the UK particularly in Earth and space science and primarily working though the British National Space Centre (BNSC). Since the announcement of the Vision for US Space Exploration in 2004, experts from NASA and the UK have been conducting exploratory discussions in potential opportunities for enhanced space exploration cooperation. These discussions have included bilateral meetings, participation in international exploration workshops and conferences and visits to the UK by the NASA Administrator and other senior NASA officials with a goal of identifying areas for future mutually beneficial cooperation.

  NASA is continuing to follow developments in UK space activities very closely and with interest, including the activities of your committee. As such, I am pleased to have the opportunity to provide NASA's responses below to the committee's questions:

1.  The UK targets most of its space expenditures on the ESA programme. Would NASA welcome a higher level of funding by the UK for bilateral missions?

  NASA currently has a robust program of space cooperation with ESA and also on a bilateral basis with the UK. A key longstanding guideline for NASA's international cooperation has been that contributions from any partner need not be equivalent. As such, NASA welcomes mutually beneficial cooperation with any organisation regardless of the level of contribution. provided such cooperation has scientific or technical merit and meets NASA's programmatic objectives. While NASA would welcome enhanced bilateral cooperation with UK space organizations, it would not be appropriate for NASA to recommend the manner in which the BNSC allocates resources for space activities between national programs and ESA.

2.  Has the UK decision not to participate in manned spaceflight projects caused serious difficulties in the relationship with NASA and the UK? Would a change in this policy be necessary for the UK to contribute to the Exploration programme?

  NASA currently conducts space cooperation with the UK primarily in Earth and space science activities. While NASA would welcome enhanced cooperation with the UK in the area of human space flight, a significant policy change is not necessary to meaningfully cooperate in a mutually beneficial manner. For example, NASA has recently entered into agreements with the Indian Space Research Organization, which currently does not have a human space flight program, for cooperation on an Indian-led robotic mission to the Moon. The data from this cooperative mission will provide unprecedented scientific insights into the lunar environment and at the same time will assist NASA with its plans for the establishment of a human presence on the lunar surface, Similarly, NASA's ongoing discussions with BNSC have sought to capitalize on the significant science and technology capabilities that currently exist in UK government labs, industry and academia with a goal of identifying specific areas of cooperation that are mutually beneficial and can contribute to respective national goals for space exploration. In summary, NASA has very ambitious goals for exploration that integrate human and robotic activities over a wide range of disciplines. It is not necessary for our partners to share the same broad goals with respect to human space flight in order to benefit from bilateral cooperation in space.

3.  Has NASA found the "partnership" nature of the BNSC structure to cause any difficulty in liaising with the UK? To what extent would another structure be more effective?

  NASA has a long history of very productive cooperation with BNSC. Any potential issues regarding the structure of the UK's participation in these cooperative activities have been addressed by documenting our cooperation in written specific agreements with clearly defined managerial and technical interfaces. Although NASA would welcome a single counterpart agency that represents UK civil space interests, it has not found that the current arrangement has posed any particular impediment to cooperation.

4.  How does NASA rate the quality of the UK space community both in academia, in industry and in the commercial user development sector?

  NASA does not maintain such ratings for its international partners. I would like to note however, that over the last 10 years NASA has established over 900 international agreements with organisations from 68 countries. Ten partners account for 75% of these agreements and the UK is one of those 10 partners.

April 2007

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2007
Prepared 17 July 2007