In the 1970s we gave up on the Vertical Empire. The UK shot Black Arrow into the skies above Woomera and placed a small test satellite called Prospero in a near perfect orbit, dusted its hands and said enough.
Well almost. UK involvement in space did continue, but it was small scale for the most part, important, yes, sucessful, very.
But most definately what we didn’t do was humans in space.
Anything else was a on tiny budget.
Today that changed. The change has been talked about for months and even years. Today the UK government finally changed it’s mind and decided to do space. The process really started in October when the Chancellor announced that the UK Space Agency was to get more money. There are arguements about real term gains and overall cuts in science but at a time whenmany in the European Space Agency were looking to trim their budgets the UK suddenly moved in the other direction.
So over to Naples for the most important European Space Conference in years. The UK delegation must have been obvious from the smiles on their faces and their bigger than usual wallets. The smiles though weren’t just from the extra cash. They had permmission to join programs.
Exo-Mars, Europes next mission to Mars which will use a rover developed and built in the UK. Britain should be on the Red Planet by the end of the decade!
Then there was a suprise- Elips- European Programme for Life and Physical Science– Europes microgravity science program- they had permission to put the UK on the International Space Station. It’s not just the ISS, there are sounding rockets, access to Zero-G aircraft, ground based science are included too.
Then the biggest suprise…Britain will help pay for and develop the Orion Capsule service module. That’s right. The UK is going to help develop a manned space ship. The one that will take humans beyond Earth Orbit. Yeah go on read that again. We are going to do manned space. When Orion flies it will contain UK money, UK tech and with luck a UK astronaut. Tim Peake must be pleased!
So perhaps at last Britian will finally get that slice of Dan Dare that we’ve been waiting for all these years.
Campaign to get the first UK manned launch called the Anastasia anyone?