You know, when I set up this blog I never intended to just be passing on news and links to other websites and material. There are other sites that do this; I wanted to do more. Unfortunately I’ve had other things on my mind. That’s about to end now.
We’re coming to the end of the Paralympic games, having had the Olympics a couple of weeks earlier, and I think everyone would agree that they have been a great success. But what have they delivered? How have they benefited our country? I don’t doubt that they’ve done so of course but as a country we’ve spent the best part of £10 billion on the games and I want to be able to say why. (To put that figure into a space-based perspective the International Space Station reputedly cost US$100 billion—about £62.5 billion at today’s exchange rate—to build.)
I don’t begrudge that money for a second: even if this country had a human spaceflight programme now, we’d still have spent it and would still have got the same value out of it. But I sense an analogy here. Just as our Olympic athletes inspire a generation to take up sports, so our astronauts could inspire a generation to take up careers in science and engineering.
At the UK Space Conference back in 2011 Jeremy Curtis, UK Space Agency’s head of Education, made some very upbeat remarks about attitudes to human Spaceflight; effectively, “make the case and you will get an astronaut”. I don’t doubt that would be a difficult task, though it would be one very worth doing, and I suspect that much evidence is already out there and simply needs to be collated together.