The launch of the UK Space Agency happened today. Except that it didn’t, not quite yet. The agency won’t actually come into being until the start of April, even its website has yet to make an appearance – rather strange given the profile of the launch event.
The space agency is here to consolidate existing structures for the delivery of space research and engineering projects. It will operate under the auspices of the Secretary of State for Outer Space, according to the Times, presently Lord Mandelson. The press release from the British National Space Centre states that “The UK Space Agency will give the sector the muscle it needs to fulfil its ambition.” it also mentions the growth of the space sector during the recession and its prospects for the future. An interesting point there, prospects for the future. The reason I mention this is although this event (even the press release says the real launch is on April 1st) was well attended and glitzy, it wasn’t quite as explicit on what’s actually going to happen as some would like. Indeed someone looking for the meat on science policy today would have been better advised to look elsewhere.
Back in the Houses of Parliament, and I’m sure entirely coincidentally on the same day as the above, a report was published by the Science and Technology Select Committee, giving an idea of the effect of cuts to the budget on research. There was also a debate in Westminster Hall from 11am-12:30pm on The Future of Physics Research, led by Dr Evan Harris. Full details should be in Hansard, the record of parliament, from 8am tomorrow morning (or seen here now). The report has been analysed by New Scientist and states that politicians should beware of cutting the science base on which the businesses they are presently promoting depend. Furthermore, there are continuing concerns expressed over the sustainability of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, which the UKSA press conference stated “will continue to play a major role in space research, as a partner of the (UK space) Agency”.