PERSPECTIVE: Is Space Still Our Final Frontier? Space Exploration Is Set to Be the Great Adventure of the 21st Century, Writes Prof Martin Barstow, Head of Astrophysics and Space Science at Leicester University. So, Britain Must Not Be Left Behind on Earth When Mankind Finally Sets out to Solve One of the Galaxy's Greatest Mysteries ... Is There Life on Mars?
Byline: Prof Martin Barstow
It remains impossible for any Briton to fly in space, unless they change their nationality, have a parent of US nationality or are rich enough to become a "Space Tourist".
This is all down to a longstanding element of UK space policy which has decided that, as a country, we will not participate in any human space flight activity.
Just last week our new Minister for Science, Malcolm Wicks, raised the possibility that the UK might decide to actively participate in human space flight for the first time.
The importance of space to the UK in scientific, social and economic terms is not well known.
For example, we have a thriving UK space industry whose annual turnover will have rocketed by the year 2020.
I think that UK investment in space should be larger and we should be part of the adventure of humans living and working in space.
Nevertheless, it is very important to think carefully about the reasons to be involved in the enterprise and discuss in public what we expect the benefits to be in relation to how much we are prepared to spend, because, we will need to spend more on space than we do now to be involve in human space-flight.
The arguments for and against human space flight are complex and cut across many areas of scientific, social and economic activity.
So far science has been the main motivation for UK spending on space.
This includes building space-telescopes to observe the universe, sending space probes to our neighbours in the solar system and using the superb vantage point of satellites in-orbit around the Earth to study our climate. Few would argue about the importance of these endeavours and this success has been achieved with fairly modest investment.
At the moment the UK government spends around pounds 200 million per year on space research, less than one tenth of 1/2 a per cent of total government expenditure. It is often claimed that space is too expensive, but this just is not true. It is a small fraction of the pounds 90 billion we spend on the NHS. Even the Nasa budget of $17 billion is less than one per cent of the US total budget.
Is there a science case for humans in space?
The answer is - to some extent. An enormous amount has been accomplished by robots and there is still plenty that can be done. …