European Space Agency considers building facility in the UK
25 November 2008
The UK's science minister Lord Drayson is in negotiations with the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop a space centre in the UK devoted to climate change research, robotics and new technologies.
The UK is already the fourth largest investor in the European Space Agency.
'Our scientists would receive a real boost if an ESA facility were established in the UK,' Drayson told the space agency's ministerial meeting at The Hague today.
'It would also enable ESA to make the most of the UK's world-class expertise in environmental change, climate science and robotics,' he added.
The proposed centre could be based at Harwell in Oxfordshire, the site of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. An ESA centre would be a further boost to climate and environmental research in the UK and would develop close links with the National Centre for Earth Observation - funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and officially launched in 2009.
The Harwell site in Oxfordshire is already home to the Diamond Light Source.
The government estimates space science generated a turnover of £5.8 billion in 2006-07 and directly supports 16,000 jobs in the UK. NERC manages the UK's Earth observation budget and invests around £40 million in ESA projects annually, primarily Earth observation satellites. This investment helps make the UK the fourth largest investor in ESA.
Drayson told the ministerial meeting that even in difficult economic times 'it is important that we maintain the pace of investment in research to address climate change.'
'I'm pleased, therefore, to confirm that the UK intends to invest in ESA's flagship Global Monitoring for Environment and Security programmes.'
No budget has yet been announced. The National Centre for Earth Observation's director, Professor Alan O'Neill and two other scientists, Professor Paul Monks from the University of Leicester and Professor Shaun Quegan from the University of Sheffield, wrote to the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, recently urging him to 'support this initiative at a level consistent with the UK's aspirations as a leader in the response to climate change.'
Drayson said, 'the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security programme is vital for monitoring climate change, and the UK is keen to share its expertise in both satellite technology and in climate prediction.'
He also added that space research encouraged more young people to become scientists, 'This is something I believe in passionately - space has an unrivalled ability to capture children's imaginations and inspire them to study science subjects at school and at university.'
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