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Last Updated: Monday, 1 March, 2004, 02:54 GMT
Think tank urges space fund boost
By Pallab Ghosh
BBC Science Correspondent

Beagle 2   All Rights Reserved Beagle 2
The race for Mars rekindled public interest in space exploration
The left-leaning think-tank Demos has called on the UK government to invest more in space exploration.

The call follows an upsurge in popular interest as a result of attempts to set the British lander Beagle 2 on the surface of Mars.

In a report on space policy, Demos says the UK should support European efforts to prevent US attempts to dominate and weaponise space.

It is an old refrain set to modern circumstances.

For decades, space enthusiasts have complained that the UK spends less per capita on space than its major industrial competitors.

Since the 1960s Britain has been a bit-part player in space - eschewing the grand designs of the US space agency (Nasa) and the European Space Agency (esa) "of boldly going" - instead adopting a policy "of carefully investigating".

Britain's priority has been the scientific exploration of space.

Now an influential think tank has said that the UK has been too timid.

Armed space?

Demos argues that while the government has been right to avoid human exploration, it risks missing out on an economic and technological revolution.

That is, unless it gives stronger political and financial backing to robotic probes - such as the Beagle 2 mission.

And that backing should be for what it describes as Europe's more peaceful and environmentally friendly vision.

Others, though, say there is no evidence for this.

And that the current transatlantic stance on space means the UK is able to cherry-pick the best scientific projects.


SEE ALSO:
Robot balloons could explore Mars
11 Feb 04  |  Technology
Europe joins manned space race
03 Feb 04  |  Science/Nature


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