British Astronauts? Yey! British Astronauts!

Our last astronauts were these guys (from a Cambridge University project).

For an island of explorers, you may be confused by the fact there’s never been a British astronaut. Poppycock! What about that Michael Foale bloke? He’s British, and he spent a hell of a lot of time in space for a guy who shouldn’t be up there! Actually, Foale wasn’t a ‘British astronaut,’ he was a ‘British-born astronaut’ who is dual-nationality, lives in the US and works for NASA; being from the UK wasn’t a factor. Other British-born astronauts have either changed nationality or had to take the private route into space. The UK didn’t invest any money in their aspirations for rocketry.

And that’s what it came down to in 1986 when UK Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher decreed that there would be no British astronauts. We were ‘banned’ from space. Bummer. Basically, the expense of supporting a British manned space effort was sidelined, thereby removing the UK from any involvement in any manned space program. This included the International Space Station (just in case you haven’t noticed, there’s no British flag on the ISS, and there’s no 30-minute tea breaks or roast dinners served on Sundays in low-Earth orbit).

However, in a bloody fantastic turn of events, it’s been announced (right at the time of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing) by Lord Drayson, UK Science Minister, that British astronauts will feature in the future of the UK’s space ambitions.

Britain should be playing a full role in space exploration. There was a special fund for training astronauts and we did not contribute, but that is now changed. There are important benefits that come from manned space-flight and we have dropped our opposition. We have an astronaut entering training soon and I hope he will be the first of many. –Lord Drayson

Lucky sod: Major Tim Peake, training British astronaut (BNSC)

Lucky sod: Major Tim Peake, training British astronaut (BNSC)

This news comes after the European Space Agency (ESA) selected lucky Tim Peake for their astronaut training program. Up until now, the annal £180 million ($290 million) the UK pays ESA could only be invested in robotic space exploration programs. Therefore, Peake can now be supported by the UK government, making him the first British astronaut to train in Europe.

I hope Tim Peake will be the first of many Britons selected to train as European astronauts,” Lord Drayson added.

This increased interest in British manned spaceflight could have some serious ramifications for the future of the nation, but the first thing that will need an upgrade is the British National Space Centre (yes, we really do have one) which is currently run by a part-time crew of civil servants pulled from other government departments, two research councils and the Met Office.

I can’t begin to put into words of how many shades of awesomeness this is, but I’m very excited that the United Kingdom will once again be involved with manned spaceflight… rather than just being known for making small craters with unfortunate Mars robots…

Special thanks to the ever-vigilant Dr Lucy Rogers

Source: Times

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14 responses to “British Astronauts? Yey! British Astronauts!

    • It was £180 million — I very nearly wrote £180 billion, I think I'm getting too used to big numbers by living out in the US for too long! Thanks for the catch!

  1. You lucky bastards! We, the very first European explorers (after the vikings, that is), had more than 200 candidates, but none of them was chosen. Major bummer.Sigh. Next time. Next time.

      • I don't exactly know how our slice of ESA budget is spent, but I guess we're in pretty much all the programs that were budgeted (or rebudgeted) after we joined. Problem is: we joined late (only in 2000), and therefore we're not onboard the ISS and other, older, programs, and we're not quite one of the richest countries of Europe, and therefore our contribution is relatively low.And in any case, our 200 plus candidates were a small percentage of the total. Even if ESA puts budget contributions aside in the time of astronaut choosing, the odds of having one of us selected were pretty low. Of the countries of similar dimension only Denmark got contemplated.

  2. Well this is jolly good news!I'm just wondering if I should mention something about Russian-born astronauts and how we were the first in space… ;)

  3. Well this is jolly good news!I'm just wondering if I should mention something about Russian-born astronauts and how we were the first in space… ;)

  4. Pingback: Virgin Galactic to Fly Suborbital Flights from… Scotland? | Astroengine.com

  5. Pingback: I, For One, Welcome Our New BritSpace Overlords | Astroengine.com

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