UK aims to be 'major player' in space technology as Briton prepares to blast into orbit

'Today the UK will trigger the next scientific revolution to turn science fiction into science fact'

The International Space Station in orbit above Earth, the destination for Britain’s first astronaut
The International Space Station in orbit above Earth, the destination for Britain’s first astronaut

The UK’s first National Space Policy has been launched as Britain’s first astronaut prepares to blast off to the International Space Station.

The Government has announced plans to make the UK the European hub for commercial space flight and space technologies, with investments in space flight and microgravity research that will give an £11.8bn boost to the economy.

The Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “For decades mankind has dreamt of space travel, and from today the UK will trigger the next scientific revolution to turn science fiction into science fact.

“Not only are we celebrating the launch of the first UK Government-backed astronaut, but our first-ever space policy will build on the inspiration he provides to grow our burgeoning space industry. Historically we haven’t been a major player in space programmes; this policy will change that.”

The policy will also support “numerous vital services” including disaster relief, defence and transport, and create 100,000 new jobs by 2030.

Meanwhile, the former Science minister, Lord Willetts, confessed to feeling “romantic” about Britain’s spacefaring future. Speaking at an airport in Moscow ahead of British astronaut Tim Peake’s rocket launch to the International Space Station tomorrow, he said: “Britain’s got its mojo back in space. We’re self confident and recognise that we have a significant role to play.

“I hope in future there will be more British astronauts. The International Space Station’s life will come to an end some time in the 2020s. The next project will be a lunar base. I would like us to be part of that, and also a [manned] mission to Mars looking further ahead.

“We were always a country that sent people out exploring, and the new frontier is space. It’s the same tradition as Captain Cook and Charles Darwin’s Beagle.”

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