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UK Reconsiders 1986 Decision To Ban Astronauts 279

Posted by Zonk
from the brits-iiiinnnn-spaaaaccceee dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The British space agency, BNSC, is reconsidering its 1986 decision to reject all human space missions. The decision has dominated British space policy ever since, leaving Britain out of many American and European space projects. The UK is the only nation in the G8 group of leading economies that does not have a human space flight program. But space enthusiast groups like the British Interplanetary Society are trying to persuade the British government to participate in both manned and unmanned space activities."
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UK Reconsiders 1986 Decision To Ban Astronauts

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  • by sisko (114628) on Monday March 17, 2008 @09:20PM (#22779330)
    David Lister.
  • Tea (Score:4, Funny)

    by kernowyon (1257174) on Monday March 17, 2008 @09:24PM (#22779350) Journal
    The real reason we Brits don't send people into space is because you simply cannot get a decent cup of tea there! Manufacturing Bowler Hats to fit over those helmets has proved rather tricky too.
  • by Fizzlewhiff (256410) <jeffshannonNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Monday March 17, 2008 @09:24PM (#22779354) Homepage
    They have too many hands in the British government.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by $RANDOMLUSER (804576)

      They have too many hands in the British government.
      Yeah. "Informative". What if "he" returns? Heh.
  • Pathetic.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jmorris42 (1458) *
    Pathetic whimperings of a dying civilization.

    If one takes the British position that 'man has no business in space' then there isn't a point to sending robots beyond geostationary orbit either. The whole point of sending robots is that they are cheaper and more expendable to send than humans, thus they are good for the early scouting missions. But if humans aren't eventually going, what is the freaking point?
    • Re:Pathetic.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RiotingPacifist (1228016) on Monday March 17, 2008 @09:33PM (#22779406)
      Theres this thing, im not sure you have much of it over the pond, its called science. There is know need/point in wasting money in some ego race to see who can touch mars first, but by exploring the universe we can expand our scientific knowledge.
      • by Otter (3800)
        There is know need/point in wasting money in some ego race...

        I'd read your previous comment comparing US education to "a supper massive black hole", considered suggesting that you leave advocacy of the British system to one of your fellow countrymen, and decided not to bother. You've left me no choice, though.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Gordo_1 (256312)
        Traditionally, the ego race is precisely the means by which your elitist ilk entice us regular folk (i.e. politicians, janitors and steroid-abusing baseball players) to consider giving any of our hard earned tax dollars to this so called "science" you speak of.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Jarjarthejedi (996957)
          Not to mention that ego races and greed are some of the best ways to motivate people to accomplish great things. I doubt we'd ever have gone to the moon had it not been for the ego race between the US and the USSR and those trips are one of the main reasons that space still holds any appeal to people back here on Earth.

          Science for science sake is a great idea, just like socialism. In practice, however, most implementations leave something to be desired...
          • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
            Going to the moon achieved nothing except giving a few politicians a hardon. We could have sent a robot for much less money and got the same results.

            Once the ego was satisfied we sat on our arses for 50 years. Great motivation, that was.

      • Re:Pathetic.... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by GreggBz (777373) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @12:05AM (#22780156) Homepage

        There is know need/point in wasting money in some ego race to see who can touch mars first, but by exploring the universe we can expand our scientific knowledge.
        Not to invalidate your point, but I think the GP has a better one. I don't care how smart you get. You've got to step out of mom's basement eventually!

        Human spaceflight is risky, ponderous and expensive. But there is a very deep, very meaningful reason to push on. See, I've always held on to the frail hope that one day we will leave this rock. It's why I read science fiction. I mean, who does not? I can't imagine it another way. I find contemplating the inevitable extinction of the human race utterly depressing. It's our deepest instinct to survive, after all.

        Square one is always going to be expensive. But it's certainly not a waste of money. The peripheral benefits are enormous. Advances in engineering, industry, science and enough to inspire so many. Can you imagine if a woman was the first to step on Mars? She'd inspire us all. I'd like to see that in my lifetime.

        We got hundreds of pounds of Moon rocks back to Earth was via the manned missions. A lot of those samples were selected Harrison Schmitt a geologist, based on geological significance, once he got there. They were thereafter distributed to leading geologists around the world, many in the Soviet Union even. The samples have probably done more to advance our understanding of the Moon than any other thing. The last Apollo mission was the most scientifically significant. We were just getting started.

        It did not crash the US federal budget. It caused no wars. It employed 400,000 people. It gave Boeing and Locked Martin something to build besides bombs. Apollo was almost invariably, a great thing. Without Vietnam, perhaps it would have continued on.

        I don't have a problem racing to Mars. In fact, I think we should be there already. We've been sitting on our laurels since the 70's. The apatite for realizing the Arthur Clarke type human future in space will vanish in a few generations if we don't give those generations anything to look forward to.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Dragonslicer (991472)
          "No. We have to stay here, and there's a simple reason why. Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics - and you'll get ten different answers. But there's one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on: whether it happens in a hundred years, or a thousand years, or a million years, eventually our sun will grow cold, and go out. When that happens, it won't just take us, it'll take Marilyn Monroe, and Lao-tsu, Einstein, Maruputo, Buddy Holly, Aristophanes - all of this
    • Re:Pathetic.... (Score:5, Informative)

      by msauve (701917) on Monday March 17, 2008 @09:37PM (#22779434)

      If one takes the British position that 'man has no business in space' ...

      No, their position is that government should play no role in sending men into space. Feel free to do it by private effort, if you want.
      • Re:Pathetic.... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris&beau,org> on Monday March 17, 2008 @09:45PM (#22779484)

        No, their position is that government should play no role in sending men into space.


        No, read the article. As a Libertarian sort I'd be down with that part about not stealong my money to blast somebody else into space. But yhey are spewing propaganda to British school children. To quote the article:

        2. Make the case for ending human space flight. Outline the advantages of using satellites and the disadvantages and dangers of manned missions. Include an explanation as to why manned missions have continued despite the cost and loss of life.


        That is a sign of a civilization that has lost not only the will to live, it isn't even all that curious anymore. If you aren't ever planning on roving over the mountain eventually, why waste the money sending a robot to look around?
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          As a Libertarian

          Your an anarcho-communist too?

          But yhey are spewing propaganda to British school children.

          Right because making the case for an item is propaganda.
          1)There will probably be a who section space flight, so making a case for not poluting the atmosphere is probably worth it
          2)They then give children the counter arguments.(So basically the lesson would cover, reasons not to go into space (danger, pollution, too many Americans there), then why we do it anyway (science & pride))
          3)British teachers are fairly free to give their opinion AS opinion, and telling them that th

          • Why rove over it, if you can get all the information you need by safer, cheaper, less environmentally damaging, more scientific ways?

            It's a lot safer, cheaper, and less environmentally damaging to stop worrying about whether there was ever life on Mars, or what kind of rocks the Moon is made out of. And maybe these aren't the most important questions for a humble island nation to worry about. There's not really a good argument I can give, other than, "Hey, let's go land on the planet Mars!" sounds like a pretty cool project, especially compared to, "Hey, let's try to invent a better safety razor!". Not much we do really matters anyway.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by globaljustin (574257)

          But yhey are spewing propaganda to British school children. To quote the article:

          2. Make the case for ending human space flight. Outline the advantages of using satellites and the disadvantages and dangers of manned missions. Include an explanation as to why manned missions have continued despite the cost and loss of life.

          The thought of British authorities trying to use the horrible danger of human spaceflight to brainwash students to be frightened of the idea reminds me of Reefer Madness [wikipedia.org]

      • Re:Pathetic.... (Score:5, Informative)

        by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Monday March 17, 2008 @09:46PM (#22779486) Homepage Journal
        That's exactly right. And it kind of annoys me that every time there is a story like this they say "British Astronauts Banned".. like there's some law prohibiting citizens of the UK from going to space.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)
        I saw some program about that, it sounds like they make it as hard as possible for private astronaut programs as well.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Eunuchswear (210685)
          There only is one "private astronaut program".

          And it's funded by a British company.

          Was "some program" made by "some guy I met in the pub"?
    • by Kjella (173770)
      I guess that depends on what you think humans' role in space will be. One thing is if you think humans can be useful, another thing is if you think they can "hold their own" compared to robots. After all, a human will be 80kg of raw weight, plus air recycling unit, plus water and food production unit, plus radiation shield, g-force friendly landing plus lots more. Yes, what the Mars probes have done could probably be done in a few hours by a geologist but getting him there and keeping him alive would be a
      • by jmorris42 (1458) *
        > One thing is if you think humans can be useful, another thing is if you think they can "hold their own"
        > compared to robots.

        We are decades (probably more) away from designing a robot that can even compete with a human when it comes to doing the sort of work needed to explore a new world, build a base, etc. Sending some cute little radio controlled cars to Mars is interesting and all, but a team of real scientists would produce more information in a month than all the probes sent to data and likely
      • by cgenman (325138)
        It seems like people either believe that all present and future spaceflight will be manned, or all present and future spaceflight will be robotic.

        It's not an either-or situation. Why not run with robotic spaceflight for a while, until technology advances to the point where it becomes valuable to send people? We've already got airtight sub-orbital airlines on the drawing board, and actual colonization is miles away. Why not just use robots for a while, until people become more feasible to send?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jamesh (87723)

      The whole point of sending robots is that they are cheaper and more expendable to send than humans

      I think that's why they prefer to send Americans and Russians instead. ...

      yes okay, i'll leave quietly.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cgenman (325138)
      If one takes the British position that 'man has no business in space' then there isn't a point to sending robots beyond geostationary orbit either. The whole point of sending robots is that they are cheaper and more expendable to send than humans, thus they are good for the early scouting missions. But if humans aren't eventually going, what is the freaking point?

      Aren't we pretty much in the "early scouting missions" phase for at least the next 20 years? Why not let other countries learn the hard and expen
    • But if humans aren't eventually going, what is the freaking point?

      I think Brits will go, but it will be awhile.

      To be honest the early exploration is best done by Robot.

      Take it a step further, it would be a lot easier to Terra form
      a moon base with just robots, prior to sending humans up there.

      Flying all the food and other necessities into space to keep
      humans alive could be used to get more Robots up there.

      A Robot doesn't suffer from Bone Density issues in low gravity.

      A Robot doesn't need food, water, or atmo
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Kristoph (242780)
      I am not sure which country you are in but over here in the US our next likely president (Barack Obama) would like to 'defer' manned space flight for 5 years to pay for additional education programs.

      http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2007/11/obama-pits-huma.html [wired.com]

      ]{
    • by nguy (1207026)
      The whole point of sending robots is that they are cheaper and more expendable to send than humans,

      You're doing well so far...

      thus they are good for the early scouting missions. But if humans aren't eventually going, what is the freaking point?

      The freaking point of exploring space is to learn about the universe, not to allow Captain Kirk to shag green-skinned aliens or let escapist nerds dream of a life of adventure.

      Humans like you and me are never going to colonize space. If it ever happens, it will invol
  • by backslashdot (95548) on Monday March 17, 2008 @09:30PM (#22779386)
    How can Britain not have a astronaut program, when a country like Nigeria already has astronauts in space. I got an email from one of their astronauts describing the funds to get him back down were in an account that needed to be transferred out of Nigeria in order to gain access to it.
  • CCTV (Score:4, Funny)

    by RockMFR (1022315) on Monday March 17, 2008 @09:41PM (#22779458)
    Maybe they're afraid that they won't be able to keep tabs on the astronauts in space? What's to prevent British astronauts from putting some duct tape over the cameras and engaging in terrorism?!
  • Ironic (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TFer_Atvar (857303) on Monday March 17, 2008 @09:42PM (#22779464) Homepage
    Ban something, and you may choose to regret not having the option later. The solution? Ban nothing. Or, ban banning.
  • I guess the UK got tired of the United States government's fancy spy stations spying on the rest of the world :)
  • So the Koreans sent up kimchee, the Japanese had ramen. What wonderful food can the British send up to space with their people?
    • How about Yorkshire Pudding, which isn't a pudding & doesn't originate in Yorkshire :-)

      • by terrymr (316118)
        Thats always a fun one to try and explain in the US - it's easier just to make it - people look at you funny when you threaten to serve pudding with a roast.

    • by owlnation (858981)

      What wonderful food can the British send up to space with their people?
      Deep fried Mars Bars, washed down with 10 pints of lager.
    • by v1 (525388)
      fish and chips I would assume?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bogtha (906264)

      That stereotype is unwarranted. The UK has some of the best restaurants in the world. The Fat Duck [benking.co.uk], for instance, was named best restaurant in the world and was runner up three times. There's another restaurant in the same village that's in the top 20 as well, I believe.

    • Perhaps that's why manned space flight is banned. Old Pec comes from heaven and we aren't giving it back.
    • by hyades1 (1149581)
      Snake 'n' Pygmy Pie!
  • Then how do they explain Space 1999?
  • by MAXOMENOS (9802) <[maxomai] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday March 17, 2008 @09:57PM (#22779556) Homepage
    I know you're worried about the risks of sending people into outer space and all that, but please do consider the following.

    (Holds up sack.)

    England, do you know what these are? Perhaps not. It's been a while, hasn't it. Let me explain: these, dear friends, are your balls. You had them for a while once, back when you were a colonial power, you had big titanium steel ones while you fought the Nazis, and you had pretty good sized ones when you kicked the crap out of Argentina. But ever since you stopped sending humans into space, they've been sitting quietly in a burlap sack, growing old, gathering dust, completely unused while you drink beer and make funny movies and wonder what the hell happened to the England that was.

    You know you want them back. You know you want to feel them again, along with the rush and thrill of going places where human beings just weren't designed to go. You know you want it, because that's where we've always gone as a species: where we're not supposed to.

    Go on England. Explore space again. Get your balls back.

    Until you do, I'll keep them in my lock box, along with the brains of the people who designed City of Heroes. They won't be needing those anytime soon, I assure you.

    Love, MAX.

    • by drsquare (530038)
      It's not a matter of a lack of balls, but a lack of cash. How can we afford a manned space mission when we have important projects to fund, such as bailing out shitty banks, giving benefits to layabouts, and foreign aid to countries which can afford their own space programmes!
  • by femto (459605) on Monday March 17, 2008 @10:06PM (#22779614) Homepage

    See hundreds of years ago the equivalent to space exploration was sending a ship around the world. The UK was a leader in this effort. In 1770 a guy called Cook discovered a place called Australia and in 1788 a colonising fleet was sent from the UK to this new world. The new colony succeeded beyond the UK's wildest dreams. It's inhabitants evolved into bronzed, suntanned titans, with physical and mental capabilities beyond anything the UK was remotely capable of. Worst of all they repeatedly whopped the UK at all sports. The final straw was when the Australian colony sent back this thing called Neighbours and destroyed the Queen's English, the foundation of the UK's national identity, culture and pride.

    The UK resolved "never again".

    :-)

  • by Orleron (835910) on Monday March 17, 2008 @10:19PM (#22779670) Homepage
    Why would they send a man back into space after what happened to Major Tom, and all?
  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Monday March 17, 2008 @10:26PM (#22779710)
    • Career Counselor: What do you wanna do with your life? Tell me your dreams!"
    • Student: I wanna be an astronaut! And go into outer space and discover things that no one's ever discovered before!
    • Counselor: Look, you're British, so scale it down a bit.
    • Student: All right, then I wanna work in a shoestore! And discover shoes that no-one's ever discovered! Right at the back of the shop on the left ...
    • Counselor: Look, you're British, so scale it down a bit!
    • Student: All right, then I wanna work in a sewer. And discover sewage that no-one's ever discovered before. I'll pile it on my head, then come to the surface and sell myself to an art gallery.
    • Counselor: What the fuck have you been smoking, eh?

    - Eddie Izzard, Dress to Kill

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Minwee (522556)

      And, from the same show, a bit about manned spaceflight...

      He also made a speech about space. President Kennedy said, "By the end of this decade, I have decided to put a man on the surface of the Moon." At the same time, our Prime Minister in Britain, Sir Dingly Dang... You don't know anyway, do you? You have no idea! It was Sir Fritz Bunwalla. Engelbert Slaptyback, who was Prime Minister at the time, and he stood up and he said, "By the end of this decade, I have decided to put a man on the surface of the

  • by syousef (465911) on Monday March 17, 2008 @10:32PM (#22779728) Journal
    Are you telling me Moonraker wasn't real???

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moonraker_(film) [wikipedia.org]

    WHAT? But Roger Moore is British! It even says so in Wikipedia, so he's been up in space.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Moore [wikipedia.org]

    It's on Wikipedia. It must be real!

    What do you mean that's not real life? I don't understand! That can't be right. If it is how can I ever aspire to having sex in zero G with a gorgeous Russian spy?
  • ...Keith Richards has already boldly gone where no man has been before.
  • by SquirrelsUnite (1179759) on Monday March 17, 2008 @10:49PM (#22779818)
    At this point human spaceflight is at best a propaganda exercise and at worst a complete waste of money. Why should the UK change their stance on the issue? Has human spaceflight become more interesting in the last 20 years? More strategically important? More affordable?
    I realize human spaceflight is inspiring but that in itself isn't enough to justify the expenses.
    • by dbolger (161340) on Monday March 17, 2008 @11:55PM (#22780112) Homepage
      Meanwhile, in 1491 Madrid...

      Ardillasunen wrote:

      At this point human transatlantic exploration is at best a propaganda exercise and at worst a complete waste of money. Why should King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella change their stance on the issue? Have transatlantic voyages become more interesting in the last 20 years? More strategically important? More affordable?

      I realize transatlantic exploration is inspiring but that in itself isn't enough to justify the expenses.
    • by toppavak (943659)
      The problem isn't that its a waste, the problem is that nobody has seriously taken the long-term risk of trying. And when it doesn't work, trying again and again and again. It took 22 years of trying before a successful colony was set up on N. America. If NASA had made real attempts following the Apollo missions to establish a foothold, it could have easily set up a stable presence in 22 years, the problem is that they didn't. In fact nobody has really tried. ever. We have all the technology we need, we hav
  • They have a problem even looking into space as they can't get permission from countries all over the globe to install surveillance cameras pointed at the Space Station. I hear things get pretty wild when the Vodka starts flowing. Who knows what terrorist plots they may be making up there in space.
  • It'd be simpler... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @01:14AM (#22780464) Journal
    ... of the US just changed the citizenship requirement specification for astronaut candidates. Where is says "Applicants for the Astronaut Candidate Program must be citizens of the United States" add "or of those countries which are allies in space exploration." and have a treaty drawn up that these ally countries can sign so their people can train and fly from here while retaining citizenship. NASA gets more candidates in its pool, UK (probably, eventually) gets some astronauts to brag about.

    They could build their own training facility and equipment and staff it, or send them to Baikonur for 5 megapounds each. The former will require they finish training at the site of their choice (or by selection), US or Russia, to be able to fly one one of their missions, the latter gets them fully trained, but to fly on Russian missions only. Doing it themselves would cost a great deal more, because they have to train the trainers; not having a program of their own yet, they don't have anyone qualified to teach it to others. Even if they did, to fly on US missions they'd still be required to train here after initial qualification. In light of this, it seems patently absurd to require they get basic qualification at home when they have to come here for mission training.

    I suppose they could send their people to one of the more reasonable countries who have their own training and are willing to take Brits in. But NASA administration has become so politicized that those people probably wouldn't be selected for mission training. When NASA says "you can't" they tend to mean something like "you can't, unless you ask real nice, and you can't a whole lot more if it's with someone else."

    And before those who work for or contract to NASA, hacking hardware (including the kind that makes fire at the bottom), software and people get riled and tell me the people who work there aren't like that, yes I know. I know people who work there, and the engineer and scientist types are worthy descendants of the steely eyed missile men with pocket protectors. But you can't deny the political games go on at the top -- I know some that work there, or at least have to work around and with them. A treaty-based program would give the politicreatures something to do, which keeps them happy, and after that training and flying can proceed.

    This is all based on the assumption that they're not going to develop a hardware program also. Personally I'd like to see them and the rest of the European Space Agency buy capsules from Russia (so training there becomes a foregone conclusion) and fly them on their own boosters. Hell, they could hire the Russians to build a crew capsule in one of their new Automated Transfer Vehicles and send up a whole squad of their own.

    One has to wonder, since so many other ESA countries have had their ESA trained astronauts fly on NASA missions, why UK as an ESA nation doesn't also? It's a fair cop, guv. I'm thinking it's not likely Belgium, with 2 astronauts accepted for NASA missions, has its own astronaut training program. If this is the case, UK doesn't need a program of their own, they need to get with their ESA pals and do the same things.

    Or do it the hard way, by yourselves for yourselves. The hard way is good. We chose to go to the moon, not because it was easy, but because it was hard. That was our challenge, but we don't own the concept.

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