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Space Government News

UK Reconsiders 1986 Decision To Ban Astronauts 279

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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  • Re:Tea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) * on Monday March 17, 2008 @09:38PM (#22779440) Homepage Journal
    What explains the Indian Astronauts? Many cannot do without a cuppa.
  • 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.
  • Re:Pathetic.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Monday March 17, 2008 @09:50PM (#22779508) Homepage Journal
    I saw some program about that, it sounds like they make it as hard as possible for private astronaut programs as well.
  • Re:Pathetic.... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 17, 2008 @10:03PM (#22779590)
    Yeah because science never had anything to do with humans doing experiments on location....
  • Re:British Cuisine (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bogtha ( 906264 ) on Monday March 17, 2008 @10:34PM (#22779746)

    That stereotype is unwarranted. The UK has some of the best restaurants in the world. The Fat Duck [], 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.

  • Re:Pathetic.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by unbug ( 1188963 ) on Monday March 17, 2008 @10:59PM (#22779858)
    This doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Firstly, doesn't the fact that those engineering challenges would have been overlooked if not for manned space travel mean that they aren't really that important for anything else? And secondly, doesn't the same logic apply to all sorts of other things like living on the bottom of the ocean, growing wheat in Antarctica and diving into volcanoes? Not that I'm advocating any of these, I just don't see what's so special about space travel in this respect.
  • by unbug ( 1188963 ) on Monday March 17, 2008 @11:06PM (#22779878)

    The reason bureaucrats hate space programs is because it's the one guaranteed area where you can dump as many billions as you want and you will get no measurable progress.
    Hmm, you'd think true bureaucrats would love something like that. Firstly, nobody is accountable if there really is no progress. Secondly, they can pocket some of it without anyone actually noticing.
  • Re:Pathetic.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Monday March 17, 2008 @11:26PM (#22779956) Homepage
    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 expensive lessons about sending people into space, while you send robots and get real scientific work done?

  • 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.

  • Re:Pathetic.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eunuchswear ( 210685 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @06:56AM (#22781390) Journal
    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 Saint Fnordius ( 456567 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @11:31AM (#22783714) Homepage Journal
    I'm sorry, but you're really stretching it there. To assume that his one-sentence quip referred exclusively to the NHS budget and was not comparing it to the US model is absurd. There is not enough information in his one sentence to support your claim.

    His sentence could be interpreted in many ways. He did not claim "halves the budget" but "is half the cost", and is thus open to interpretation. The one I showed would have been a more valid debate point, but you have chosen to parse it in a way that makes you look smug. Your lack of generosity is revealing.
  • Re:Pathetic.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dragonslicer ( 991472 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @12:12PM (#22784254)
    "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. All of this was for nothing, unless we go to the stars."

    - Jeffery Sinclair, Babylon 5

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming