May 2002 - Government Challenged to Support Space Science
Space Action Network (SPAN) called on the Government to increase its commitment
to funding space science. SPAN fears that when a decision is made on this
issue in the forthcoming spending review, the Government will fail to provide
the money needed for the UK to maintain its position and role in this crucial
scientific field. The problem is that the Government does not fully appreciate
the benefits that space research can bring. Apart from helping us understand
our universe, space science:
technology in the UK which has spin-off benefits for the citizen back on
a network of more than 150 businesses and academic institutions that is
a unique powerhouse of British scientific and technical excellence;
high calibre scientists and researchers into science and engineering and
reduces the number that leave the UK
of SPAN, Professor Mike Cruise of Birmingham University, said,
science has delivered outstanding scientific discoveries and wider technological
benefits to Britain, but we are no longer able to rely upon past investment
to try and keep up with our international competitors. We are living off
investments made in the late 1980s. Today, budgets are being slashed and
we do not have sufficient funds to participate in the exciting new opportunities
that we have targeted.
are modest. Even an increase of only £55M over the next three years would
provide the support required to enable UK universities and industry to recover
their world class position and play a leading role in future programmes.
Without an immediate decision we will miss out altogether."
to space research, support for culture and the arts has been strong in recent
years. The disparity between these areas reflects a result of lack of Government
understanding of what space science can achieve for the UK. Without greater
support now the UK's ability to develop excellence in disciplines such as
physics and engineering will deteriorate and UK plc will be unable to exploit
the potential that space exploration will provide in the future.
- SPAN held
its first meeting at the Royal Aeronautical Society on 20th May at which
140 people from academia and industry attended. SPAN is a new independent
campaign group drawing together leading academics and industrialists who
are concerned for the future of space science in the UK.
- SPAN has
a long term agenda of increasing public understanding of space research,
but one of its immediate objectives is to campaign to secure an increased
budget for space science. The level of public funding for space science
will be set in the Spending Review, which will be announced this summer.
- In the past
ten years financial support for space science instruments has declined by
half in real terms. This has significantly eroded the UK's ability to compete
internationally in this discipline.
Professor Mike Cruise on 0121 4144565 for more information on SPAN and its
campaign for increased funding for the UK's space science sector.
information please contact:
Alistair Scott, Director of Communications, Astrium, Tel: 01438 773698
21 May 2002
in Space Science: A Vital National Asset
briefing by Space Action Network (SPAN)
examines questions that have intrigued mankind for thousands of years. Instead
of trying to unravel the mysteries of space with philosophy and religion,
modern scientists exploit their knowledge of physics and high tech engineering
to better understand the composition, dynamics and history of the universe.
for knowledge is a laudable activity in itself. Man's quest to understand
his origins has long been the mark of civilised society and this line of
enquiry is as valid today as it ever was. However, this activity requires
financial support from the Government. SPAN is concerned that this is not
forthcoming and that failure in this area will lead to the disintegration
of a vital national asset.
- Space science
does not just deliver increased understanding of the universe, it also helps
to deliver practical benefits on earth. Eroding support for space science
will compromise the significant benefits it can deliver for UK plc.
- The UK has
an international reputation in space science that has been fostered by a
strong academic community. 45 universities currently teach astronomy or
space science courses, around 20 academic institutions build space technologies.
is crucial in attracting into higher education the individuals who will
become the UK's physicists and engineers of the future, working in areas
across the range of UK high tech industries. It also helps keep top our
scientific talent in the UK and attract experts from overseas.
space science is an international activity. Co-operation on space programmes
helps transfer ideas and technology to the UK. These cutting edge ideas
are exploited in our science programmes but also in the myriad spin-offs
that this activity delivers.
networking is mirrored by the development of links between universities
and business. Space science has a unique role in enhancing the UK's ability
to turn our scientific excellence into commercial potential.
- An amazing
number of technologies have been transferred from use in space projects
to applications on the ground. Even a brief list demonstrates the diversity
of space technology's 'down to earth' applications. For example:
- Life function
monitoring equipment developed for space suits has been used to create
suits to monitor infants and protect against cot death;
observation technology used to monitor crops and pesticide use has been
adapted to use in industry to help colour matching by textile manufactures;
- Heat resistant
composite materials developed for satellites are now being used in aeroplanes
equipment developed for astrophysics is now being used for cancer diagnostics;
systems and test procedures used to quantify and improve the performance
of robots operating in space are now used on automated production lines,
for example in car manufacturing;
which used wind tunnels to help scientists understand how they could return
space vehicles safely to earth are now used by crisp manufactures to package
their products without damaging them;
exploration radar used for interplanetary missions is now used on earth
for geophysical investigations and in the detection of anti-personnel mines.
just a small illustration of uses that space technology can be put to on
earth. The European Space Agency estimates that its own projects have seen
more than 100 transfers of technology to on-earth applications. The UK will
benefit most from similar transfers if it is playing a leading role in space
- Our space
science capacity clearly has the potential to deliver significant direct
and indirect benefits for the UK but the ability of our scientists to effectively
participate in important projects is being damaged by a lack of funding.
- The UK government
dedicates only £47M year (99/00) to space science projects. This compares
with about £70M in France, about £90M in Germany and about £65M in Italy.
These comparisons are crucial, as many space science projects are international
ventures. Higher domestic funding enables our partners to take more senior
roles in projects and to win greater pooled funding (for example from European
Space Agency Budgets). The UK's space science activity is very cost effective
as every £1 spent by the UK leverages in at least another £6 from elsewhere
but this cannot make up for a deficiency in total funding levels.
recommends that the Government should invest an additional £55M in space
science over the next three years. This represents less than £1 per
year for each taxpayer. This will provide invaluable support to the UK space
science community that, for example, has seen its instrument budget halved
in the past ten years, and we fear it is set to halve again.
- SPAN's demands
are modest. For example, the Department of Culture Media and Sport has an
annual budget of £1billion. 90% of this goes to arts and sports. In comparison
the UK spends a tiny proportion on Space Science Š only 4% of the DCMS total.
This imbalance must be addressed, otherwise there is a real danger that
the UK will fall behind its global competitors in science and engineering
should be supported for many scientific, cultural, industrial and commercial
reasons. The UK has so far maintained its position but continued funding
pressures will inevitably compromise its ability to compete in this area.
The Government has recognised the value of space science in its space strategy.
It must now back this up with proper funding.
If you would
like to help SPAN in its campaign for greater funding for space science,
or simply want more information about space science and SPAN please contact:
Mike Cruise on 0121 4144565
Alistair Scott (Astrium) on 01438 773698
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