Tuesday, July 03, 2012
Arguably less often since the history of British scientists being innovative in space and British politicians resolutely destroying the vision goes back 50 years. The scientists launched our only satellite in 1971, in despite of an order to close down from the politicians. This has been largely successfully airbrushed out of history by the bureaucracy.
Now UKIP has broken that 50 year record by its call for Britain to use the £275 million we currently give to ESA (who have yet to put a person in space, except by buying tickets on the American and Russian craft) into a British Space X-prize Fund
Lord Monckton, Head of UKIP's Policy Unit who has said his mission is to provide us with the best policies of any British party said
offering prizes is a good way for governments to stimulate technological advance.
The development of controlled re-entry by private enterprise has vastly reduced the cost of space travel: no doubt further inventiveness will become evident if only we can get the costly bureaucracies out of the way and reduce general taxation to the point where it becomes at least potentially profitable to take big risks.
Monckton of BrenchleyNigel Farage, party leader, has also confirmed
It is inconceivable that UKIP would allow the EU to retain control of Britain's space-research. Conversely, it is inconceivable that UKIP would wish to participate in the European Space Agency (ESA)
A UKIP government will take the £275 million wasted in the ESA bureaucracy and instead use it in the most efficient way available - prizes. Technology Prizes do not provide subsidies to rent-seekers, and they entice imaginative thinking which is why they are at least 33 times and according to Professor Freeman Dyson, possibly 100 times more effective than conventional funding.
This can give Britain an orbital shuttle flying close to daily. Though our space budget will be unchanged and still far lower than NASA's the effective budget will be higher because prizes are so much more efficient..
As US space expert Jerry Pournelle says
"a conclusion, confirmed by a number of those in the rocket entrepreneurial community, and also several Pentagon people:
if we stay outside NASA, the technology exists to build a reusable orbiter for under a billion dollars; probably far less than a billion.
This could be done by prizes, and at the moment there are two prize schemes to consider: a single prize of $1 billion [£636 m], or a first and second prize of $500,000,000 [£318m] for first and $250,000,000 [£160m] for second. The notion of a second prize is intriguing but harder to sell. A second insures that more than one firm can raise capital to compete."
These specific prizes represent only 2 years of our money given to ESA and since building such a British shuttle would take considerably longer than that, these prizes and more could be offered immediately in the knowledge that the fund will still be in surplus after the shuttle is flying and the prize won.
The economic potential of the commercial space industry is recognised even by the current government who have refused to put anthing but token sums into it.. The British space industry is not only one of the few growing but our fastest at 10% annually. It has been the consensus of civil service departments that it will be worth £40 billion a annually in 18 years. With the world space industry growing at 10% this was actually a low estimate but such is the way of civil services
That was before the recent commercial SpaceX launch. SpaceX are, as Lord Monckton points out, launching at 1/20th the cost of NASA and promising, as Elon Musk, SpaceX's founder says "far more dramatic reductions in price in the long term".
Even before that the US commercial space industry was growing at 17.6%.
For those countries willing to support the industry, even to a small extent, the sky is not close to the limit. "Once you are in Earth orbit you are half way to anywhere in the solar system" in energy terms as the visionary writer Robert Heinlein said. Potential industries include a massive expansion of telecommunications satellites, solar power satellites providing more energy than we could ever need with no fuel costs since sunlight is free and the sun never goes down in orbit; unlimited mineral resources, including gold and platinum, in the Asteroids; and ultimately new homes for humanity.
So far the other parties have refused even to think let alone talk about this. They, in the worst traditions of Luddism, are content to tell us to live without growth, and have managed to achieve it. Even though, outside the EU the world economy never stopped growing at 6% a year.
Doubtless most of the old parties will still oppose it but with UKIP having thrown down the gauntlet, they can no longer refuse to say why.
They cannot claim they don't want to spend the money because UKIP are not proposing spending any more than they have been wasting for decades on ESA.
They cannot claim that it would be wasted if it didn't work (as it largely is being with ESA) because part of the beauty of prizes is that the prize is only awarded when the spaceship is working.
They are left with their only argument being that they are against human technological progress. This has always been an argument of the "Greens" but leaders of other parties have been more reticent about saying so.
UKIP has made the main division in British politics abundantly clear. It is between those who desire human progress and look forward to a better future and those who are uncomfortable with growth and prefer a managed decline, albeit a comfortable one for the managers. It will force members of all parties, not just the Conservatives, to consider what they really got into politics for.
The Conservatives proved unable to fully win an election, even against "the worst prime minister in this country's history" as one Labour candidate described Brown . It is clear they cannot win another except in tandem with UKIP and agreed on "the best policies of any British party". Mr Farage has made it clear that it is "inconceivable" that we would allow our space budget to continue to be frittered away by European bureaucrats rather than being used on the most effective space development programme.
Things are looking up for the UK.