Magazine article Times Higher Education

Escape Velocity for Science and Economy

Magazine article Times Higher Education

Escape Velocity for Science and Economy

Article excerpt

Ken Pounds' "Planetary attraction" (Opinion, 16 August) rightly draws attention to the tremendous scientific, technological and inspirational value of space research to advanced economies such as the UK. Alas, he missteps by suggesting that "university space science does not appear to be a priority for the new UK space agency". This is wrong. We have made no cuts to space science in these difficult times and this year will spend around one-third of our budget on it and exploration. Grants to academics for experiments and for exploiting the resultant data have normally been a separate process - not least to allow new researchers to get involved.

Where we do agree with Pounds is that we must keep up our efforts to sustain scientific and economic benefit and growth. He mentions his University of Leicester colleague John Bridges, who is involved in Nasa's Curiosity project and is one of several university scientists we fund as part of a wider Mars exploration programme, which also encompasses a leading role in building the next rover, to be launched in 2018. This next step in our exploration of the Red Planet is funded by us through the European Space Agency and is being built by UK industry.

Already this year we have started work on the Solar Orbiter mission, which will get up close and personal with the Sun, and have funded the Euclid observatory, which will place Europe in the forefront of the search for the mysterious dark energy of the Universe. More than Pounds 30 million of fresh investment will flow into British universities as a result. …

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