Helen Sharman: Britain Should Get Serious About Human Spaceflight

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Helen Sharman: the British astronaut who flew the flag
The Telegraph

With almost 500 people having made the trip, Britain, once at the forefront of human space exploration, has been reduced to a bit-part player. Although Tim Peake, an Army helicopter test pilot, was selected by the European Space Agency last month to be trained as Britain’s first official astronaut, ministers have refused him any financial support. Currently, Britain does not contribute to manned space flight programmes, preferring to put resources into satellites and robotic missions.

As a result, Dr Sharman has used her first public appearance in recent years to hit out at the British Government’s reluctance to involve itself in human space flight, and call for a dramatic shift in policy that will see funds dedicated to manned space flight.

“Politicians and the Government have become too interested in short-term gains,” she explains. “Of course, if you look at the direct financial returns in the short term, human space flight is expensive. But they need to look longer term.

“People are fascinated by space flight. It makes them interested in science, gets them asking questions and motivates them. Most of all, it will give people the feeling that Britain is not getting left behind when it comes to technology and worldwide status.”

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