I, For One, Welcome Our New BritSpace Overlords

The Habitation Extension Module (HEM) proposed by UK engineers (University of Bristol)
The Habitation Extension Module (HEM) proposed by UK engineers (University of Bristol)

The UK has started its own space agency (at long last) and the agency has a logo. The latter is the big news here.

At a time when motivation for manned spaceflight by NASA is dwindling and yet private industry is forcing its foot in the door of getting stuff into space, it’s nice to hear that the UK government felt the need to keep up with the rest of the world and set up an agency of their own. That’s not to say the UK hasn’t been involved in space programs before now, it’s just that our involvement has always been a piecemeal approach; hitching rides on other nation’s rockets with occasional probes (erm, well, the Mars Beagle 2 lander is the only one that comes to mind). Personally, I blame Maggie Thatcher (I have my reasons).

Awesome, so we now have an agency rather than an office cubicle tagged “Space.” This is a bona fide agency that has lunar aspirations (yep, really, we’re that original) and a funky logo to boot.

However, not everyone is impressed with the logo. In fact, Ken Carbone, a graphic designer who writes for the website Fast Company, thinks it’s dull:

The design recipe is simple, right? Take a square, add a Union Jack, thrust an arrow through it and BAM!

This logo is anything but tasty. The net result looks terribly fractured and unstable. Not the ideal visual for space flight.

To make matters worse, the U.K. Space Agency will have the inevitable and unfortunate acronym “U.K.S.A.” which sounds like something translated into Pig Latin.

But say if “fractured and unstable” is exactly the impression we were trying to give, huh? But, in all fairness, he does point out that all space agency logos are dull.

Let’s have a look the offending logo. Prepare yourself, it’s a disgrace:

Woah! Hold on a second. I thought it was supposed to be crap? As far as logos go, that’s one I can believe in. I mean, it’s a re-worked version of our proud national flag. It also has a gert red arrow, pointing up. What more do you need?

Admittedly, I think the acronym isn’t much cop. U.K.S.A. sucks cheese, “BritSpace” is far superior in my humble opinion (Science Minister Lord Drayson, consider that a suggestion), but as for the logo, I’m proud of that, I think it means business. Look at that arrow. It’s red. Pointing up. Masculine. Grrr.

That’s the logo of an aspiring space faring nation if I ever saw one.

And now for my least favorite space agency logo. Ladies and Gentlemen, please avert your eyes for the Croatian Space Agency:

But hey, what do I know, I’m not a graphic designer.

In all honesty, I like the UKSA logo, but I’m especially happy that the UK actually has an agency now rather than being just a player in the European Space Agency (ESA). But will it motivate a solution to the summering STFC debacle? That remains to be seen.

British Astronauts? Yey! British Astronauts!

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