Island Britain: sleepy Isle of Man moves into the space age
In a nondescript building on a housing estate in Onchan a company called CVI made the laser optics with which Nasaâ€™s Phoenix Lander spotted snow on Mars last year. Another Manx company, Odyssey Moon, is competing to win the $30million (Â£18.4million) Google Lunar X prize by putting a robotic landing craft on the Moon. A third, Excalibur Almaz, is developing space tourism.
Later this month Nicole Stott, wife of a Manxman, will begin her four months at the International Space Station. The Isle of Man has officially joined the space race. Mrs Stottâ€™s husband, Chris, a space fanatic working for Lockheed Martin in the late 1990s, persuaded the islandâ€™s Government to file for the orbital satellite space slots that it is entitled to. In 2004 Allan Bell, the Treasury Minister, needed a headline-grabbing announcement for his budget and declared a zero corporate tax rate for space activities. The response, he says, was â€œquite amazingâ€.
More than a dozen space-related businesses operate from the island, including some of the worldâ€™s biggest satellite companies. It has a director of space commerce, an honorary representative to the international space community, and an International Institute of Space Commerce.
Manx schoolchildren attend Nasa summer camps in Houston. Tim Craine, the space commerce director, regularly flies to Houston, Cape Canaveral and French Guiana. â€œIâ€™m very lucky. I could have been director of patient care,â€ he says.
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