British Aeronautics and Space Agency?

Lord Drayson, UK science minister, has announced another step toward giving Britain its much needed national space agency.

He says the “bureaucracy busting” body will replace the existing British National Space Centre, which coordinates the activities of nine government departments and agencies but has no power of its own.

Government spending on space – around £270m a year, much less per capita than other advanced industrial nations – will not increase.

But Drayson says the unified agency will increase Britain’s clout in international negotiations. “I and my predecessors have had to negotiate with our hands tied behind our back,” he told me.

It will also support the country’s growing space and satellite industry, which contributes £6.5bn a year to the UK economy and supports 68,000 jobs

The location and name of the new agency will be decided in the new year. Candidate names include British Aeronautics and Space Agency (Basa) and Her Majesty’s Space Agency.

Another significant event for the sector is the publication today of a government-commissioned review of Britain’s future options for space exploration.

The review concludes that the best option would be for Britain to end its long refusal to engage with manned space projects. By spending just £100m a year more than it does today, the government could take part in international projects to send people back to the moon and, possibly, on to Mars.

The returns for both science and innovation would greatly outweigh the additional public expenditure, according to the review panel.

Sadly, however, Drayson says “the broader economic climate means we’re not in a position to change our current approach to investment in space exploration.” But there is hope for the future…

The world of research

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Clive Cookson, the FT's science editor, picks out the research that everyone should know about, in fields from astronomy to zoology. He also discusses key policy issues, from R&D funding to science education. He'll cover the weird and wonderful, as well as the serious side of science.