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Commission Suggests UK Should End Astronaut Ban

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the who-could-resist-the-allure-of-spaceflight dept.

Space 233

An anonymous reader writes "According to the BBC a British scientific panel has recommended that the British Government should end its ban on human space flight. The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) Commission pursued a 9-month investigation into 'The Scientific Case for Human Space Flight'. Professor Frank Close, Chair of the Commission, said, 'We commenced this study without preconceived views and with no formal connection to planetary exploration. Our personal backgrounds made us lean towards an initial skepticism on the scientific value of human involvement in such research.' The commission concluded that 'profound scientific questions relating to the history of the solar system and the existence of life beyond Earth can best - perhaps only - be achieved by human exploration on the Moon or Mars, supported by appropriate automated systems.'"

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233 comments

lilo of freenode gave oline to GNAA member?!!? (1)

morfiend (641239) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824780)

16:13 -!- lilo [i=levin@freenode/staff/pdpc.levin] has quit ["leaving"] 16:14 -!- Adamn [i=adam@fetus.eater.org] has joined #freenode-wallops 16:14 -!- integral [n=develop@p3m/member/integral] has joined #freenode-wallops 16:14 -!- met [i=met@124-ego-1.acn.waw.pl] has joined #freenode-wallops 16:14 -!- Toes [i=1000@unaffiliated/toes] has joined #freenode-wallops 16:14 should nick passwords be changed? 16:14 -!- t35t0r [n=huh@eglimp.mc.Vanderbilt.Edu] has joined #freenode-wallops 16:14 timecop: fuck it, just do it 16:14 no. 16:14 -!- ardchoille [n=ianmac@unaffiliated/ardchoille] has joined #freenode-wallops 16:14 what is going on 16:14 moderate it and voice the people who ask 16:14 or any other passwords ? 16:14 who is being attacked 16:14 hahaha 16:14 alindeman thanks for the info and bye again... 16:14 -!- elfredo [n=mrhuggy@ip149.82.1311B-CUD12K-03.ish.de] has left #freenode-wallops ["They broke my watch!"] 16:14 -!- funkyHat [n=matt@cpc3-nthc3-3-1-cust65.nrth.cable.ntl.com] has joined #freenode-wallops 16:14 -!- hal9OOO [n=monolith@2001:7a8:432d:a1:cafe:bed0:c0de:d0d0] has joined #freenode-wallops 16:14 puzZles: yes, so long I'm not sure I remember who you are. :) 16:14 -!- cdp34 [i=cdp34@student.cusu.cam.ac.uk] has joined #freenode-wallops 16:14 OK, here's what we have: One of our new staffer's daughter's boxes was compromosed, either by the GNAA or by someone with connections to them. His oper password was compromised, and was used to forget and forbid a few large channels (less than 10 as we can well) ----- 16:47 lilo: Can we hunt down GNAA and kill them all please? 16:52 wow , gnaa site made my browser crashed..ouch 18:38 My name is Grog of the GNAA RUINED.4.LYFE NOT GREG LEHEY AKA GROGGY, LILO IS A FUCING IDIOT HE GAVE THE KEYS TO FREENODE TO GNAA THROUGH BEING SOCIALLY ENGINEERED NO HACK, NO SCRIPT WAS USED YOU HAVE BEEN TROLLEED 18:38 My name is Grog of the GNAA RUINED.4.LYFE NOT GREG LEHEY AKA GROGGY, LILO IS A FUCING IDIOT HE GAVE THE KEYS TO FREENODE TO GNAA THROUGH BEING SOCIALLY ENGINEERED NO HACK, NO SCRIPT WAS USED YOU HAVE BEEN TROLLEED 18:39 Looks like lilo gave the keys to the kingdom to the GNAA, if this is true 18:46 if groggles is a freenode staffer, but a GNAA member 18:46 why was he opered in the first place 18:46 nenolod: he was not/is not a gnaa member 18:47 his account was compromised 18:47 numist: are you sure? 18:47 he may be. 18:47 there is no reason to believe so, so quit spreading FUD please 18:47 -!- lilo [i=levin@freenode/staff/pdpc.levin] has joined #freenode 18:47 -!- mode/#freenode [+v lilo] by ChanServ 18:47 yes 18:47 The creator of FreeBSD and MySQL was GNAA? 18:47 please no FUD 18:47 wb lilo 18:47 hay i have voice 18:47 z1on: heh. 18:47 z1on: nice 18:47 z1on: Right on 18:47 Groggles was indeed GNAA from the beginning 18:47 z1on: just stop reading their site :p 18:47 z1on: Riiiiiiiiiiight. 18:47 There was a member of GNAA named Grog 18:47 Then why was groggles opped? 18:50 nenolod: google for greg lehey, thats who groggles is 18:50 don't blame philly! 18:50 bandwidth can be dropped 18:50 nenolod: greg's homepage is here: http://www.lemis.com/~grog/ [lemis.com] 18:51 is lilo's IP Static 18:51 100mbit is toastable 18:51 nenolod: he definitely doesnt fit the gnaa typography 18:51 HAs he turned to GNAA? 18:51 lilo turned GNAA? 18:52 i have a hard time believing that 18:52 heh 18:52 lol 18:52 i have 7mbish down and 900kbish up 18:52 _ns, he didnt 18:52 let's just end the conspiracy theories :p 18:52 * bill_c smacks head 18:52 no... lilo wouldn't turn GNAA 18:52 who is falling for the dark side

ehhh.... (5, Interesting)

SkankinMonkey (528381) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824787)

Isn't the real question - Why was it banned in the first place?

Re:ehhh.... (4, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824815)

Because it was considered by just about every scientist alive at the time of Apollo that there was absolutely no scientific value in sending a man to the Moon. Not just British scientists but Americian scientists too held this opinion. Many still hold this opinion today.

Re:ehhh.... (2, Interesting)

TheRealSync (701599) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824828)

But believing there is no scientific value in going to the moon doesn't really justify a ban, there must have been more to it, or..?

Money (4, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824867)

There is a limited supply of it. The question is, do you focus on the automated robotics or on the human missions?

A good example is that GWB is gearing NASA to spend heavily on the moon shot. So they just fired 300 top engineers at JPL. JPL has done a fair number of the automated systems. I would expect that the private enterprise will pick these ppl up. Most have a great deal of talent and interest.

The moon shot will costs more than a 100 billion dollars to get us back there. Hopefully this time, we do not dismantle such an expensive set-up.

Re:Money (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824991)

The moon shot will costs more than a 100 billion dollars to get us back there

Unless I see the accounting figures broken down on paper, I cannot fathom such a missing costing 100 billion. It's not like we need to start from scratch all over again. The research and development has been done. The only major costs associated nowdays should be mainly hardware and administration.

Basically.

1. Refine old Saturn rocket technology using computer CAD models and simulations.

2. Build it. Retooling machinery needed to make parts should be much more simple then it was in the 60s.

3. Use off the shelf hardware. If Burt Rutan can build SpaceShipOne on a budget, NASA sure as hell has the means to do so...at least for the capule.

4. Launch it.

Re:Money (4, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825056)

Unless I see the accounting figures broken down on paper, I cannot fathom such a missing costing 100 billion. It's not like we need to start from scratch all over again. The research and development has been done. The only major costs associated nowdays should be mainly hardware and administration.

Ok, lets look at what those 4 steps entail.
First off, we will be creating 2 rockets from the current shuttle stack.
That means that the solid BOOSTER will now be turned into a man capable rocket. In order to get a human rating (vs. just freight), requires a great deal more tests. You have heard about all the issues of the Airbus A-380, right? Well, this is far more rigorous.

In addition to creating the rocket, we will have to create a CEV; A crew exploration vehicle.
Just determining which company to give it to, will cost NASA some 1-2 billion. The ship itself will probably be 10 billion or better (I am betting closer to 15).

The above will get us with a crew of 6 up to the ISS. The good news, is that the launch cost is a fraction of what it costs today. In addition, we will be able to take the ISS back up to 7-12 ppl.

From there, we then need the HVL vehicle. That is nothing more than moving the 3 engines from the shuttle to 5 on the bottom of the fuel tank. In addition, we will change the boosters to have 5 segments rather than 4. We currently are able to put some odd 28 tonnes into space via the shuttle (at a cost of 1 billion). When the new HVL is done, we will put 128 Tonnes in one shot (at a cost of 1.5-2 billion). This craft will also have to be human rated, which means undergoing rigourous testing.

Then we need a whole new system that lands on the moon, and takes off again. That entire system is quite a bit more nebulus, but it will probably look like our old apollo stuff, but much bigger.

The above illustrates parts of the costs for getting into space and to the moon, and back safely. You mentioned Burt Rutan's works as an example for NASA to follow. Well, First off, Burt did not go high. He went 60 miles. Well, now he needs to go to 300 miles. My understanding is that it gets exponentially harder as you go higher. There are no off-the-shelf stuff for this. In fact, the tspace group is looking to develop a great deal. The capsule that burt did, has a minimal life support system. It is nothing compared to what NASA does to get ppl to the ISS let alone to the moon. remember, once you are on your way to the moon, there really is no rescue group for you (hence tspace's idea of multiple groups going; not a bad idea). So these systems are designed and built to work. period. But it does not come cheap. Yet.

Re:Money (2, Insightful)

IAN (30) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825286)

You mentioned Burt Rutan's works as an example for NASA to follow. Well, First off, Burt did not go high. He went 60 miles. Well, now he needs to go to 300 miles. My understanding is that it gets exponentially harder as you go higher.

He went high, but not fast. Shooting payload 300 miles up isn't too difficult. What is harder (truly exponentially harder, due to the rocket equation [wikipedia.org] ) is reaching orbital velocity.

$98billion is on managers and corporate meetings.. (1)

cheekyboy (598084) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825058)

Dont forget, that managers get paid top $$ to go to meetings and go "Now why are we doing this..." "We need another meeting to confirm that"

Re:ehhh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13824888)

Why did America put a man on the moon - because of the scientific value? or was is for the political value?

Re:ehhh.... (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824915)

Political. USSR had beat us to space, and then beat us again with a man into space (as well as first women). President Kennedy decided to throw the engineering effort into getting us on the moon within a decade. His hope was that once we got there, we would build a permanent base there. Sadly, Nixon killed that idea. Too be honest, the last 40 years have been good in that we have learned how to better survive in space. Now we should have a better shot at Mars.

Re:ehhh.... (4, Insightful)

identity0 (77976) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825025)

I don't think that's what the original poster was asking. The question wasn't 'why not send a man to space', but 'why ban sending a man to space'. The point being, why was it nessecery to ban it, as opposed to just deciding not to do it?

Japan, Europe and Israel, for example, have very good space programs with no manned flights, but none of them saw the need to ban it.

Is it like the old joke -
"In America, everything which is not banned is legal.
In Germany, everything which is not allowed is illegal.
In Soviet Russia, everything which is not banned is mandatory."

"In Britain, everything which is not worth doing is banned."?

Does this ban extend to private spaceflight as well?

Re:ehhh.... (1)

EntropyEngine (890880) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825222)

To paraphrase Carl Sagan, that's probably because they didn't know what they didn't know.

I'm reminded of a documentary of the British SAS in Iraq during the first conflict. They largely distrusted intelligence supplied by the various agencies because of factual inaccuracies and delays in getting the data in the first place.

They preferred instead to make use of what they call best piece of field equipment any SAS soldier has in his armourment: the Mark I Eye Ball.

They believe that there's nothing more reliable than having a man out there on reconnaissance, making in-theatre observations...

Re:ehhh.... (2, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824832)

due to the costs of what was being sought. Putting man into space is trivial (just like putting in any other sat.). Keeping him alive is a whole different thing. The support mechanism that is required is big and difficult (read expensive). So if all your exploration is simple remote monitoring, then sats are far easier and cheaper. Hence the ban.

Now, we are exploring the surface of planets. If was can put a small group of ppl on mars for 5 years, then the amount of exploration that is accomplished is many times more than what is possible by remote vehicles. the same is true of the moon. We can easily get in and do the job.

Re:ehhh.... (4, Interesting)

baadger (764884) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824847)

No, I believe the 'real question' is why did we give up on our space program in the first place, really just a few years before people started seeing and reaping the commercial benefits of satellite technology.

It is feasibly that if we had continued our efforts, unclamped by the government, we may have put a man in space ourselves.

There was recently a brilliantly put together but saddening documentary on the highlights of the British space program on the BBC. Unfortunately there isn't a torrent in sight (if anyone finds one PLEASE me know) and there aren't many central sources for general information on the era to be found with Google (unless you know specific project names).

Britain's first space pioneers [bbc.co.uk] - A nice summary of British space efforts, courtesy of the BBC.

Re:ehhh.... (1)

thelonestranger (915343) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824993)

Sad fact but the UK just cant afford to finance its own space program, I mean cmon we cant even afford to give our troops the correct equipment when they go to war. We just kit them out with tin foil helmets and Nerf bats.

Re:ehhh.... (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825043)

Perhaps it can't afford its own space programme, but there is nothing to stop ESA (for example) sending men up into space. After all, perhaps one reason they haven't before now is because the UK or another member country has had these kind of objections.

I doubt they'd manage it without bumping their budget, but who knows, it could happen.

Re:ehhh.... (4, Interesting)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825111)

After all, perhaps one reason they haven't before now is because the UK or another member country has had these kind of objections.

Quite a lot of the reason, actually. ESA had a project in the 1980s to build a small spaceplane called Hermes. It was going quite nicely, then the Americans accidentally blew up one of their shuttles and that caused a bit of a flap over here too. Subsequent redesigns sent the thing way over budget. The Germans got cross at being asked to pay far too much for the thing, especially with the British refusing to pay anything at all for a manned spacecraft. End result: what was very nearly an independent European spacecraft ended up as a pile of extremely expensive paperwork.

Since then European cosmonauts have mostly flown as passengers on Soyuz and sometimes on the Shuttle. This is a bit annoying, but then... Soyuz just works. What's to stop ESA contracting the Russians to provide capsules and rockets and conducting a space programme that way?

Simple: UK has no suitable launch sites (4, Funny)

evilandi (2800) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825029)

The answer to both of those questions is: The UK doesn't have any good launch sites. We're in Northern Europe, in case you hadn't noticed, and you can't launch rockets from there (at least, not without considerably higher costs/risks than doing it closer to the equator).

It comes down to empire. The French still exhert ownership over a couple of countries that have good launch sites. The UK does not.

The idea of us ringing up the Australians and saying "What ho! We're going to build a rocket base in your outback. Look, I know you chaps think you're independent now, but Queen Liz says to tell you to bally well stuff off" is just not going to fly, I'm afraid.

True, we're part of the European Space Agency.

But it seems rather pointless to have a space programme when you have to ask other people to launch it for you.

Especially if those other people are the French.

I do hope I don't have to explain quite how horrifying the idea of a British citizen patriotically launching into space to the sound of "Cinq... quatre... trios... deux... un!" sounds to the average Brit.

Re:Simple: UK has no suitable launch sites (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825202)

It comes down to empire. The French still exhert ownership over a couple of countries that have good launch sites. The UK does not.

We've still got some lovely tropical islands in the Caribbean. One of those would do nicely. It would help recruit the best ground crew - too: think about it, would you rather work in a swamp in Florida? Or in some South American rainforest? Perhaps the Kazakh steppe is to your tastes, or maybe even a desolate part of Mongolia?

No, no, no. Coconut Island, that's the place for me! Native chicks who don't wear much, British Overseas Territory tax rates, cheap marijuana, and rockets. I'm up for it, how about you?

Re:Simple: UK has no suitable launch sites (1)

Nept (21497) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825205)

and saying "What ho! ... Queen Liz says to tell you to bally well stuff off" is just not going to fly, I'm afraid.

That might not fly, but diplomacy would.

Re:Simple: UK has no suitable launch sites (1)

SimonInOz (579741) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825224)

Well really!

Actually I think Australia (my country of choice) would be more than happy to be a launching spot. Indeed we have a launching site - Woomera (recently used by the Japanese for some rather cool hypersonic scram jet work) .. but I think somewhere further North (that's nearer the equator for the geographically challenged) would be better.

So come on down - the beer's cold, the climate's warm, and the people are friendly - not to mention intelligent, well educated, and speak English (not American, though I admit we are bit weird on the whole football thing).

Re:Simple: UK has no suitable launch sites (1)

constantnormal (512494) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825267)

If the Brits were looking about for a third-party nation to lease launch facilities from, they could do worse than negotiating with the Chileans to lease a facility for a spaceport in the high Chilean deserts [wikipedia.org] . About 10 degrees closer to the equator than Cape Canaveral, and around 10,000 ft higher, they are also one of the driest spots on the planet (less ice build up than launching out of a tropical wetlands).

The European Southern Observatory [wikipedia.org] already operates two of the finest atronomical facilities on the planet there.

Re:ehhh.... (1)

RocketGeek (566822) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825128)

> No, I believe the 'real question' is why did we give up on > our space program in the first place, really just a few years > before people started seeing and reaping the commercial > benefits of satellite technology.

Primarily it was a case that the politicans were too short sighted. The particular individual in government who could not be persuaded by the rocket engineer's very good arguments and demonstration of why this was a growth industry that the UK would do well to be involved with, was a clueless wonder called Quintin Hogg, later to become Lord Chancellor as Lord Hailsham. Given his performance in that role too, I can see how he failed to grasp the intracacies of a few simple graphs showing growth against investment. Hmmm, lines, on sheets of paper. Hard concept for a politician.

I remember speaking to one of the people who presented the case to Hogg, and this, more than 25 years later, made him incredibly angry just to talk about it.

Then there is the US factor. Don't underestimate the power of US financial interests to ask their government to "lean" on the governments of "friendly" nations to drop certain promising technology developments. Special relationship ? My arse.

As I mentioned in another post, as with us being encouraged to buy Skybolt, drop TSR2 etc, dropping Blue Streak was a similar issue. Partly financial, and partly vested interests. And with the demise of Blue Streak, went our only real opporunity for an expandable launch system. Black Arrow, and planned derivatives, were exceptional for their size, but never meant for the same payload capability.

Re:ehhh.... (1)

leandrod (17766) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825140)

if we had continued our efforts, unclamped by the government

So who would be the private investors?

Re:ehhh.... (3, Funny)

madaxe42 (690151) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824848)

Because in Britain most things that might be marginally dangerous and/or interesting are banned. Such as cycling on the motorway.

Those bastards.

Not dangerous, slow (1)

TeXMaster (593524) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825116)

Cycling in motorways/highways ("autostrade") is outlawed in Italy too. Actually, no mean of transportation that can't go faster than 60 km/h is banned. And not because they are dangerous, but because they slow traffic down.

Re:ehhh.... (1)

xtieburn (906792) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824959)

Vast, vast, vast cost in not only money but in human life to find out man can survive, with some vomiting, in Zero gravity. Yeah why on Earth would they ban that.

Re:ehhh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825104)

Sorry to be rude, but RTFA - The ban was imposed in the first place because sending humans to space is very costly and may not be the best use of taxpayers' money at present.

WTF? (2, Interesting)

mboverload (657893) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824788)

I mean, seriously. That's all I can say. What the fuck?

I mean shit, I know it's a waste of money but to BAN it? Someone needs to get beat with a billy club.

It wasn't BANNED.... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13824825)

...they just wouldn't fund any projects / research - where's the story?

Re:It wasn't BANNED.... (5, Informative)

RocketGeek (566822) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825046)

Actually, it was as more than a case of any projects/research not being funded, it was as good as banned.

Sorry, your comments are wrong.

There was, and still is, for instance, an active policy "against" space launch technology in the UK, which has been in place since the days of Blue Streak. Partly due to having 650 or so mainly arts graduates sitting in a large debating chamber and not understanding why we are consistently throwing away technological opportunities, partly due to pressure in the past from our supposed partner the other side of the pond leaning on us to drop launch technology and use theirs (shades of other programmes such as TSR2 and Skybolt), and partly due to an active dislike of space within Whitehall, and a major and irrational dislike against launch technology and manned space.

I have been in space meetings in the UK where government representatives have said do not under any circumstances mention anything to do with manned space. To which my response is to give them the finger. To say they have wasted a generation's talents which could have been used on space technology in the UK would be an understatement. They've wasted at least 2 generations.

The whole HOTOL, and later SKYLON lack of support from the UK government, and lack of participation in FESTIP is yet another example of this myopic, and moronic attitude by some faceless bureaucrats in Whitehall. An attitude that they have passed on down the years.

So yes, banned is an appropriate word for manned involvement in space and the UK government.

Re:WTF? (5, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824830)

What's hard to understand? There was a ban placed on the use of public funds to do manned space exploration because it was considered a waste of money by the scientific community. When you consider how much money is wasted on the ISS every year you gotta appreciate they may have a point.

Re:WTF? (2)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824893)

When you consider how much money is wasted on the ISS every year you gotta appreciate they may have a point.

That is not entirely accurate. We are learning how to put a system together in space that has held up for years. We now have ppl in space for LONG periods of time. Before this, only the russians had done that. Both Russian and America are learning how to work together. There have been a number of small incidents on the ISS, that could have been disasterous had it been at a distance i.e the moon or mars, or intransit to mars. In addition, we are developing working systems. These systems will be used on the moon/mars. We needed to know how they would work under the stress of space. In fact, I would argue that we need to create a new module that is devote to doing agriculture in space. Hopefully, we will do it in one of the new space stations modules (bigelow). That would be useful to push to mars or to put in various places.

Hmmmm..... (2, Insightful)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825060)

What's hard to understand? There was a ban placed on the use of public funds to do manned space exploration because it was considered a waste of money by the scientific community. When you consider how much money is wasted on the ISS every year you gotta appreciate they may have a point.

No they don't have a point. The ISS it self has had a number of problems but calling the basic idea of an ISS a waste of money because one of the implementations of that idea sucks is plain stupid. Like any other elementary scientific research (be it in physics, genetics, mathematics, computing....the list goes on), studying the problems of manned space exploration requires the vision to see that the knowledge gained from experimental installations we are building today will perhaps only be useful some 50 or even 100 years from now. In fact some of the uses we find for this knowledge will be things we cannot not dream of today. The ISS and manned space flight in general may not serve much of a practical, profit generating purpose today and this will probably be true for decades to come but that is not the point. The point is that the ISS and manned space flight in general is fundamental research that we are going to need the day we have advanced far enought to enable us to economically travel to other parts of our solar system. It is easy to point a finger at projects like this one and call it a waste of money the tough bit is opening your eyes and seeing the benefits farther down the road.

Re:WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13824978)

ESA Business Plan

1. Send Astronauts to the moon
2. ???
3. Profit!

Interesting... (5, Interesting)

geo_2677 (593590) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824792)

that the report comes out couple of days after the Chinese astronauts return to Planet Earth.

Re:Interesting... (3, Interesting)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825148)

More importantly, it comes out not long after ESA reached an agreement with the Russians concerning the development of the Kliper [wikipedia.org] spacecraft. Looks like the successor to Soyuz will be largely paid for by ESA and flown from French Guyana.

But for ESA to do this will take money, and money is short as long as the second-richest country in Europe refuses to spend a single penny on manned spacecraft. British money might make the difference between this thing flying someday and this thing becoming another might-have-been. Not to mention that we'll probably get a good few lucrative contracts related to the development, and the incalculable value to British technology of actually inspiring the next generation. We have way too few new physical science or engineering students in this country right now, and we have sod all to be proud of since we retired the Concorde. America might have betrayed their dream when they cancelled Apollo to pay for Vietnam, but at least they had one. What are we trying for?

Didn't know we had one (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13824797)

"Come in Swindon. I'm at the top of the ladder now. Ohhh, it's very high, I can see my house from up here! I'm still a long way away..I think we'll need more ladders."

Eddie Izzard sums out the British philosophy to space exploration.

Re:Didn't know we had one (3, Funny)

identity0 (77976) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825091)

The real reason it was banned, of course, was the tragic loss of an astronaut in the early 70's.

Many still remember the haunting last words:

"Though I'm passed one hundred thousand miles, I'm feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go,
tell my wife I love her very much she knows"

"Ground control to Major Tom:
Your circuit's dead, there's something wrong.
Can you hear me Major Tom?
Can you hear me Major Tom?
Can you hear me Major Tom? Can you ..."

Ashes to ashes. RIP Major Tom.

The British space program never recovered from that tragedy, as well as from the breakup of The Beatles. Thankfully the Rocket Man, Sir Elton John is still standing.

Re:Didn't know we had one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825234)

"We couldn't put a man in a tracksuit up a ladder!"

What are they thinking?! (3, Funny)

jettoki (894493) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824806)

Didn't they see James Bond: Moonraker?!

If you send humans into space, evil madmen will form space station communes and plot global genocide!

Re:What are they thinking?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13824905)

Except now, Bond works for the evil madmen....

Maybe the ban was on "Astronauts"... (1)

Mingco (883841) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824811)

Perhaps the British wanted their own special cultural name for "Astronaut" like Cosmonaut or Taikonaut. The ban was to give them enough time to come up with a term as stupid as the cosmos is infinite.

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." - Albert Einstein

Re:Maybe the ban was on "Astronauts"... (4, Funny)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824842)

Considering the whole "aluminum" vs. "aluminium" flamewar we've had in a recent story [slashdot.org] (it's like vi vs. emacs, only there's no ed), it seems all they'd need to be "culturally different" is to throw in a few extra letters. "Astrounaughtte?"

Re:Maybe the ban was on "Astronauts"... (1)

tasadar24 (845665) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824956)

Sounds french, and gay.

Re:Maybe the ban was on "Astronauts"... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13824995)

Sounds french,

No, the French use spationaute

and gay.

Go away, stoopid homophobe!

Re:Maybe the ban was on "Astronauts"... (2, Funny)

mattjb0010 (724744) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824969)

Considering the whole "aluminum" vs. "aluminium" flamewar we've had in a recent story (it's like vi vs. emacs, only there's no ed), it seems all they'd need to be "culturally different" is to throw in a few extra letters.

Which reminds me of my hairdresser when I was last in America (ok, she's a middle-aged hairdresser, so not totally representative of the general IQ of Americans, but other Aussies have told me similar stories). Of course she asked where I was from, so I told her "Australia", then she told me how it was only a couple of weeks ago when she had in an Austrian guy as a client that she realised that Australia wasn't just a mis-spelling of Austria. She then proceeded to ask me what language we spoke in Australia. So yes, a few letters does make quite a cultural difference.

Re:Maybe the ban was on "Astronauts"... (5, Funny)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825074)

it seems all they'd need to be "culturally different" is to throw in a few extra letters.

Well done at rewriting history. Brits don't had in extra letters, Americans remove letters willy nilly. Everyone knows it's truly Astronaught, which was one of the reasons the Brittish banned manned space flight. Unfortunately this article doesn't mention that problem at all.

Re:Maybe the ban was on "Astronauts"... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825225)

They already have one. It's "Spaceman"

What else would you expect... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13824813)

What else would you expect from the country that brought us Christianity, the Crusades, and still has a ban on the Exorcist

Maybe if they'd had a cold war to deal with, it woulda gotten them off their asses earlier.

Re:What else would you expect... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13824829)

You do realise that The Exorcist has been aired repeatedly on Channel 4.

Idiot.

Re:What else would you expect... (1)

Hugh Macdonald (319000) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824906)

That would be Israel, Italy (well, the Vatican City), and Haven't-Got-A-Clue-Land

I thought we were talking about the UK here?

Re:What else would you expect... (3, Funny)

csrster (861411) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824916)

Ok, but you've got admit he's right that we still ride donkeys.

Re:What else would you expect... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825196)

Maybe if they'd had a cold war to deal with, it woulda gotten them off their asses earlier.

So all the US air bases and listening posts scattered throughout the land are part of an occupying force?

Clarification (3, Informative)

arethuza (737069) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824836)

Note that this was a ban on the UK government paying for an astronaut, not on there being a UK astronaut!

I have to admit, I can see their point!

Re:Clarification (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13824927)

Indeed. Eurotunnel, Millenium Dome, Mars Mission... Haven't we wasted enough?

Re:Clarification [OT] (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13824970)

The Euro Tunnel was paid for, at Thatcher's insistence, with private money; mostly from French banks and small shareholders.

The mission to Mars cost next to nothing and was covered by existing scientific budgets.

However the Dome was a financial disaster of epic proportions which, in any sane country, would have brought down the Government.

In related news (4, Funny)

Council (514577) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824854)

In related news, India, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, the Maldives, Gambia, Canada, Hong Kong, and all the other former British colonies banded together to send a message to the moon, Mars, and the other planets. It read "Watch out for these guys! They've got a flag!"

Re:In related news (1)

mean pun (717227) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825086)

In related news, India, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, the Maldives, Gambia, Canada, Hong Kong, and all the other former British colonies banded together to send a message to the moon, Mars, and the other planets. It read "Watch out for these guys! They've got a flag!"

I understand the message was "Start learning cricket!"

Re:In related news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825223)

nevermind the flag, it's the pink paint they spread all over the ground!

When was the last time anyone was on the Moon? (0, Troll)

ThoreauHD (213527) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824858)

The council people or whoever the fuck they are must not have gotten the memo from the folks up there to stay the hell off their rock. The reason why people aren't being sent isn't because people just aren't expendable in the military. It's because we were told to go away. Check the transcripts from Armstrong and Aldrin.

If you think we're the only things growin in this Universe with something better than a rocket shitmobile, I have a flat model of Earth to sell you.

Re:When was the last time anyone was on the Moon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13824870)

Do you like aluminium?

Right Answer, Wrong Reasons (2, Insightful)

physicsphairy (720718) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824859)

The commission concluded that 'profound scientific questions relating to the history of the solar system and the existence of life beyond Earth can best - perhaps only - be achieved by human exploration on the Moon or Mars, supported by appropriate automated systems.

That's cool stuff and all, but I'm something of a pragmatist, so hopefully I won't offend too many of the resident idealist when I suggest that the previously enumerated justifications don't hold water as far as spending billions on a space program goes.

Knowing the history of solar system has next to zero humanitarian worth. And while maybe, just maybe finding alien life could yield some pharmaceutical benefits, all present evidence indicates that life is a localized earth phenomena. There is not much reason to expect to find any microbes on Titan or Mars or anywhere else except for hopeful thinking. Which is fine, and maybe there's a full fledged intelligent civilization living under ice sheets on one of the Jovian moons, but you don't send an expedition to the back of the moon looking for the Fountain of Youth just because it might be there.

That's not to say this knowledge doesn't have any worth. It has aesthetic worth, like the Sistine Chapel. Heck, as a student of physics, my defining goal is to further elucidate the nature of the universe. Personally, I assosciate an incredible worth with knowing more about its formation.

But I wouldn't support my government spending billions on an art project, even one I would appreciate, and likewise, I don't think 'history of the solar system' is likely to be the best allocation of the funds.

Now, colonizing space is a whole nother spiel as far as justifying an investment. I think there are immense humanitarian benefits inherit to that--many, as exampled by the U.S. space program, that will arise sheerly incidental to the effort without us having any idea about them beforehand. Zero gravity refinement of synthetic materials, solar mirrors to assist in growing crops (and maybe dissipating hurricanes?), extending our habitat to deal with overcrowding... these all seem like things that a wealthy government might be doing its people a favor by investing in.

Re:Right Answer, Wrong Reasons (1)

16K Ram Pack (690082) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824931)

I think that unmanned space probes at least have a low cost, and at least get some knowledge, unlike manned missions that have yielded nothing.

The big question with science is always the one of when something abstract becomes practical. The work done on splitting the atom could have been seen as useless, but led to nuclear power and nuclear weapons. I don't want to deal with whether these were good or bad, but they certainly were practical.

If you really wanted to help solve the world's problems, the work needs to be done down here. More money put into engine research, battery life or fusion power would be a much better investment.

Re:Right Answer, Wrong Reasons (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825192)

How can you colonise unless you've explored the place first?
You can't just fire some space colonists at mars and say:
"Good luck chaps , hope the weathers nice and the soil isn't
poisoness!". You have to send expeditionary forces first.
If you want an analogy , medieval european colonists didnt
just head off lock stock & barrel over the atlantic without
knowing what was there on the off chance there might
be some nice farmland waitinf - many many expeditions were
launched first. Same thing with space - you can't just send
some robots to take a few snaps and root around in the dirt
for 5 mins then give the thumns up - you need people to *be*
there.

end astronaught ban instead of ending nuclear ban (1)

t_allardyce (48447) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824880)

Perhaps Blair could divert some funds from his new Trident missile replacement system, the one that costs an arm and a leg but will never actually be used? You know, all that crazy 'making a good example for the rest of the world' thing?

Re:end astronaught ban instead of ending nuclear b (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825197)

He won't even divert funds from trident to the rest of the cash starved *military*. What chance science?

Technological advancement (5, Funny)

gringer (252588) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824897)

But if the UK ends up inventing things related to space flight, then all they'll have to research after that will be the following:

Future Tech 1
Future Tech 2
Future Tech 3 ...

Re:Technological advancement (1)

Omicron32 (646469) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825057)

Man, I wish I still had modpoints...

I've been playing far too much SMAC recently... Seriously, I'm addicted again!

Little risk (2, Insightful)

panurge (573432) | more than 8 years ago | (#13824933)

Fortunately, the size of the UK economy and its loss of virtually all its technological leadership abroad (except in biosciences) means there is little risk of a party of British astronauts landing anywhere outside Earth and accidentally carrying out a military takeover (see the history of the British Empire, from Clive on.)

In fact, with the success rate to date, from Blue Streak to Beagle 2, the chance of a British astronaut getting out of the atmosphere in one piece is so low that anybody volunteering for a space program needs a quick trip to a secure mental health unit instead.

Re:Little risk (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825108)

Why the fuck are so many of your posts anti-British.

You've got a giant chip of your shoulder. What's a matter, denied citizenship?

Re:Little risk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825135)

Didn't you get the memo? The party leaders have decided that this year it is progressive to be anti-British and anti-American.

Settle down! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825207)

No need to be so cynical. We're the world leaders in telephone sanitising, while-u-wait tyre fitting and New Age Alternative Therapies.

That's why *I* don't go to space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13824954)

I mean, what's the point? Give me a good reason and I will consider space flight, but until then.... oh, that, and I don't have a launch facility.

Re:That's why *I* don't go to space (2, Funny)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825083)

Give me a good reason and I will consider space flight

Slashdotters don't weigh as much in space.

From the country that taught us (4, Interesting)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825048)

all the world's a stage:


The report warns Britain risks being isolated on the international stage if it continues its longstanding refusal to fund the human exploration of space.


This kind of reasoning makes me break out in hives. It's like saying the way to be an innovative company is to look at other innovative companies and copy what they do. Sometimes the thing to do when everyone is doing A is to find something the B that everybody else is not doing, where marginal returns are higher.


The RAS expert panel says the cost of joining other nations with astronaut programmes could be some £150m a year...

Current policy only allows for tax payers' money to be spent on robotic missions, which means the UK, although a member state of the European Space Agency (Esa), gives no funds to Esa's astronaut corps...

As part of its fact-finding exercise, the RAS panel tested public opinion through the BBC News website.


So, putting two and two together, this is political and diplomatic rather than scientific an technical. Which is not to say "not worthwhile", but justifications have to be found elsewhere. A couple of hundred million pounds a year is not going to get Britain its own space capability by a long shot, but it will allow it to play with other nations.


The men say robotic missions to the Moon and Mars can answer many of the questions we want to ask about the origin of the Solar System and the evolution of life within it - but machines do not yet have the ingenuity and flexibility of people.

"Humans are good at making decisions that are impossible to predict ahead of time," said Dr Dudeney.

"They can deviate from assigned tasks and kick over a rock just because it's a different colour and looks interesting. But there is a symbiosis between machines and man; it's not one versus the other, it's about what they can do together."


As a counter example,engineers on the Mars Exploration Rover Mission found their equipment could be kept functioning well past their orignial goals and decided to keep them doing science until they die. We won't be doing that with astronauts. It might be the next best step for marginal returns is a manned mission, but I doubt it. My point here is that we should not be overly concerned with the apparent flexibility of a mission component, which after all people would be, without taking into the account their impact on the overall flexibility of the mission and the program.

I wonder if some British national pride was hurt by the failure of the Beagle 2. That mission was way outside the box in terms of ambition for funding. It might have been a brilliant success. The lesson of the Beagle 2 mission should NOT be (in my opinion) that robotic missions are too risky. It should be that taking ambitious risks entails experiencing failure, otherwise it's neither ambitious or risky. Put in perspective, Britain could have launched twenty Beagle 2 missions (more if fixed costs are amortized) for the price of the dual Mars Exploration Rover mission; if it had a 10% chance of success they'd be in the same place in terms of mission success, but gained a great deal more technical expertise. Not only would this expertise enhance national prestige indirectly through increased capabilities, I believe that success after a number of failures would yield more prestige directly, ironic though that may be. It would remind people that you're trying something difficult and risky.

I'm not against manned space exploration; I'm for getting the most science out of our buck -- er -- pound. I'm not convinced that a manned mission is scientifically or technically the best marginal investment at this time. Even in terms of national prestige, I'm not convinced that manned missions are what they used to be. If the public wants to see George Clooney in a spacesuit they can rent Solaris (was that movie any good?). A fraction of the cost of an initial manned mission could yield imagery and scientific data which would do as much. More importantly, it would add to national technological capabilities, possibly reducing the cost of a follow on manned mission, and targetting it at more worthwhile scientific goals.

Why does space exploration have to be scientific? (2, Insightful)

kae_verens (523642) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825052)

I really don't get this - they banned it because they couldn't think of a scientific reason to go to space??

Come on! If that's right, then the UK should also ban everything else that is not accompanied by a team of ressearchers, including the average person simply getting out of bed in the morning.

Space exploration has much more to offer than simple scientific knowledge. It is known that the Earth will eventually perish, when the sun explodes into a red giant, so space exploration offers, at least, survival of the species!

Also, there are currently more than 6 billion people on this planet. We cannot sustain that. And I really don't trust that we, as a species, are capable of adjusting our lifestyles to become sustainable. So, spave exploration is inevitable!

You simply can't ban something which is inevitable!

Re:Why does space exploration have to be scientifi (1)

dbolger (161340) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825102)

Forgive me for not having a source for this, but I had thought that Earth has more than enough resources to sustain its population (and then some), if those resources were to be distrubted properly, rather than the top X percent having 99% of resources and wealth.

Re:Why does space exploration have to be scientifi (1)

kae_verens (523642) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825110)

That could be true right now, but the population is exploding. I think it was Scientific American which recently had an issue dedicated to this. It guessed that the population of the earth would level out at 15 billion, simply because the Earth could not cope with more than that. And then... Soylent Green.

Re:Why does space exploration have to be scientifi (1)

dbolger (161340) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825141)

Thanks. I had a positive outlook on the future of sustaining a large population, but your reply leaves a bad taste in my mouth ;(

Read the article (1)

ebcdic (39948) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825150)

They only banned it in the sense that they have a policy of not providing government funding for it. They didn't make it illegal.

Re:Why does space exploration have to be scientifi (1)

I confirm I'm not a (720413) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825159)

they banned it because they couldn't think of a scientific reason to go to space??

No, they banned funding astronauts because they couldn't think of a reason that justified the expense to the British tax-payer. More wealthy nations may well belive that they can justify it, given their relative wealth. As scientific focus has shifted, and Britain has moved on from frontline-cold-warrior status, it looks like the old British view is changing.

UK get babyish again... (2, Insightful)

EddyPearson (901263) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825079)

Looks like we're getting jealous of the Chinese.

I live there, but what a typical European move, they have one so we've got one. I'd bet that if the manned Chinese flight had fucked up, we be hearing "Oh! Well, we have a non manned flight policy!"

Secondly, which Briton in his right mind will volenteer for a manned Brit spaceflight, the last unmanned one we sent up (first in like 20 years, my god the hype they made about it), The Beagle, just went wrong! Not one part worked...

Re:UK get babyish again... (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825087)

I live there, but what a typical European move, they have one so we've got one.

That is a typical European response. Remember how we all panicked over here when the Russians orbited Sputnik and then Gagarin in quick succession, and we just HAD to do that ourselves and then try to one-up them with a monstrously expensive moon mission? Meanwhile of course the sensible Americans ignored the whole show...

Link to actual RAS report (3, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825189)

The article didn't seem to have a link to the actual report, and judging by the comments I've seen so far, nobody here's read it yet. The RAS's report can be found here:

http://www.ras.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content &task=view&id=847&Itemid=1 [ras.org.uk]

Here's a portion of the summary....

The main conclusions of the RAS report are as follows:

* The essential scientific case for Human Space Exploration is based on investigations on the Moon and Mars. There are three key scientific challenges where direct human involvement will be necessary for a timely and successful outcome:

- Mapping the history of the solar system (including the young Earth) and the evolution of our Sun by studying the unique signatures left on and beneath the lunar surface;
- The search for life on Mars;
- Detailed, planet-wide exploration of Mars.

* Scientific missions to the Moon and Mars will address questions of profound interest to the human race. These include: the origins and history of the solar system; whether life is unique to Earth; and how life on Earth began. If our close neighbour, Mars, is found to be devoid of life, important lessons may be learned regarding the future of our own planet.

* While the exploration of the Moon and Mars can and is being addressed by unmanned missions, the capabilities of robotic spacecraft will fall well short of those of human explorers for the foreseeable future.

* Assuming a human presence, the Moon offers an excellent site for astronomy, with the far-side and polar regions of the Moon being shielded from the 'pollution' from Earth.
* Medical science will benefit from studying the human physiological response to low and zero gravity, to the effects of radiation and in the psychological challenge posed by a long-duration mission to Mars.

* There appear to be no fundamental technological barriers to sending humans to the Moon or Mars.

* A major international human space exploration programme involving a return to the Moon and the longer term aim of sending humans to Mars is likely to involve the US, Europe, Russia and Japan. There are also growing ambitions in China and India. Under present government policy the UK would not be involved and would look increasingly isolated.

* The cost of the UK playing a full role in an international human space exploration programme to explore the Moon and Mars could be of the order £150M per year, sustained over 20-25 years. It is not realistic for the bulk of this to be taken from the existing Government-funded science budget. Rather, a decision to be involved should be taken on the basis of broader strategic reasoning that would include commercial, educational, social, and political arguments as well as the scientific returns that would follow.

* There is compelling evidence that the outreach potential for human space exploration can be a strong positive influence on the interests and educational choices of children.
* Involvement in technologically advanced exploration of the solar system will provide a high profile challenge for UK industry, with consequent benefits in recruitment of new engineers and scientists. Evidence from NASA and ESA surveys have shown a significant economic multiplier from investment in space projects, with an additional overall gain in competitiveness.

after ww2 they bungled their rockets, its just to (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825216)

its just to save face. just look at their record on space/rocketry after ww2. it was a disaster. they couldn't pull it off or afford it. they used to be a great empire and it was after ww2 they finally realized it was all in the past that they were no longer able to compete as a great power. its very easy for them to rationalize a ban on human missions in space:P national pride after all. they used to be the empire where the sun never set...

Re:after ww2 they bungled their rockets, its just (1)

Tsugumi (553059) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825262)

Yes, not a day passes that I don't mourn the loss of our empire, by jove. A few chaps we'd be jolly pleased to blast into orbit though, what what?
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