Submission from the Science Museum
This submission to the Science and Technology
Committee of the House of Commons Inquiry into Space Policy outlines:
1. the Science Museum's history of displaying
and interpreting space;
2. the Museum visitors' perennial interest
in the subject of space;
3. the utility of "space" in enthusing
young people to pursue science and/or technology orientated careers;
4. the Museum's role in explaining the ubiquitous
uses of space technologies.
1. Space Exploration displays and interpretations
at the Science Museum
1.1 The Science Museum has been representing
space exploration for its many millions of visitors for five
1.2 The Museum's first "Space Age"
exhibition was mounted in 1957 to mark the International Geophysical
Year during which the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik
1 was launched.
1.3 From the mid 1960s the Museum had had
a permanent space display and from 1986 a complete gallery devoted
to the subject.
1.4 Star objects on display include the
Apollo 10 command module, Helen Sharman's spacesuit, engineering
models of satellites and probes, Black Arrow and Scout launch
vehicles as well as UK and US rocket engines.
1.5 The Museum will be re-opening its entire
Space Gallery in the spring of 2007 as part of a new, reconfigured
1.6 The Museum interprets the subject of
space exploration and exploitation in many other ways including
lectures, talks, dramatic performances, web narratives, competitions,
outreach and so on.
2. Visitor interest in Space Exploration
2.1 The subject of space is perennially
popular with a great number of our visitors and especially with
our younger ones including those on the hundreds of thousands
of school visits made to the Museum each year.
2.2 A significant proportion of our visiting
teachers embrace the subject as something that can be used to
assist in the teaching of school science including the National
2.3 The Museum has long championed the use
of educational resources for teachers and we shall be exploiting
the new space display accordingly.
3. Space as a tool for enthusing prospective
scientists and technologists
3.1 The Museum is not alone in understanding
the import and worth of the subject of space in the teaching of
science: the main industrial and research organizations who are
supporting the re-display are, like the Museum, seeking to target
the Key Stage 2-4 age groups so that the subject can be utilized
to stimulate and enthuse those young people who are deciding on
exam options and subjects for tertiary study.
3.2 "Space", perhaps more than
any other subject, is able to stimulate interest in science and
3.3 Many, of course, will not end up working
in the UK space sector but it is "space", none the less,
that captures young imaginations and steers them, subtly, towards
scientific and technological careers.
3.4 The importance of such a catalyst in
today's increasingly competitive economic world cannot be understated
and is a quality the Museum is particularly able to cultivate
and to develop.
3.5 We are fortunate that in recent years
the UK's space science activities have become, arguably,
more prolific than ever before; they have certainly developed
a higher profile which the public, as far as the Museum is
able to tell from its interactions with it, is increasingly aware
of and, indeed, supportive of.
3.6 Missions to Mars (in particular) but
those to the solar systems' other bodies have garnered great press
and public attention and this prominence will be duly reflected
in the Museum's new space display.
3.7 The UK has never invested in any significant
way in astronautical exploration (human spaceflight) but
there is little doubt that this particular aspect of space endeavour
is of great interest to all of our audiences and especially the
3.8 Whenever visiting astronauts and cosmonauts
talk to school and other parties of young people at the Museum
the audience reactions are consistently ones of attentiveness
3.9 Some sort of UK involvement in Nasa's
plans to return to the Moon would undoubtedly capture the interest
of and provide educational stimulation for a whole new generation
to whom the Apollo missions are but history that is read about
or memories recounted by parents and grandparents.
4. The ubiquitous applications of space technologies
4.1 The Science Museum's new space display
will also attempt to alert more of the public to the UK's increasing
but still relatively unrecognized investment in space technologies
that deliver tangible, terrestrial benefits.
4.2 There will be displays that convey something
of the sheer numbers of satellites that are orbiting Earth
and assisting with communications, navigation, meteorology, climate
change studies and a host of other terrestrial applications.
A trip to the Science Museum should always
be fun and enjoyable but it ability to enthuse young visitors
serves a far more serious role in helping to instruct them in
the arts of science and technology. This is a Museum remit little
changed from that which drove the organizers of the 1851 Great
Exhibitionprogenitor of all of South Kensington's world-leading
scientific, technological and cultural institutions. Space offers
a unique tool with which to deliver inspiring scientific and technological
displays and events and the presence of a healthy UK space sector
both enables and feeds off this energy and enthusiasm.