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PN04/39: RAS LAUNCHES REVIEW OF HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT

Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 April 2010 14:50
Published on Wednesday, 02 March 2005 00:00

In the light of considerable UK scientific and industrial interest in the Aurora long-term programme of Solar System exploration, the Royal Astronomical Society has decided to conduct a review of the scientific case for human spaceflight as applied to astronomy and geophysics.

The first public announcement of this RAS Commission will be made during the RAS Discussion Meeting on Friday, 10 December. The meeting, entitled "The Scientific Case for Human Spaceflight", will be held at the Linnean Society Lecture Theatre, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1, starting at 10.30.

Over the past three years, the European Space Agency (ESA) has been preparing a road map for future robotic and human exploration of other worlds - particularly the Moon and Mars - under its optional Aurora programme.

The UK and other European governments agreed to provide "seed corn" funding during this initial stage of the programme, but a decision on whether or not to provide much more substantial financial support for Aurora over the next five years will have to be made by 2006.

This decision will be made against the background of NASA's new Vision for Space Exploration initiative, which was announced by President George W. Bush on 14 January 2004. ESA and its member states are currently examining ways in which Europe might play a leading role in this long-term vision to return to the Moon and eventually send humans to Mars.

In the light of considerable UK scientific and industrial interest in the Aurora programme, the Royal Astronomical Society has decided to conduct a review of the scientific case for human spaceflight as applied to astronomy and geophysics. It is hoped that other learned societies will also take part, in order to broaden the scope of the enquiry.

The Society is appointing a 'commission', comprising a chairperson and two others, that will gather written and verbal evidence from a wide variety of sources. The commission's final report and conclusions are expected to be completed in late 2005. They will then be presented to the Particle Physics & Astronomy Research Council, the British National Space Centre, the Minister for Space and relevant committees of MPs and Peers.

It is anticipated that the RAS report will assist the European Space Agency (ESA) in defining its future programmes, and that it will have some influence on the aims of the UK's future participation in ESA's Aurora exploration programme, beyond the currently planned robotic sample return programme.

The RAS Review will be chaired by Frank Close, Fellow and Professor of Physics at Exeter College, Oxford, and former Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College, London.

RAS MEETING: "THE SCIENTIFIC CASE FOR HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT"

The review will be launched at an RAS Discussion Meeting on Friday, 10 December, starting at 10.30. The meeting, entitled "The Scientific Case for Human Spaceflight", will be held at the Linnean Society Lecture Theatre, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London.

The Discussion Meeting, which has been organised by Dr. Ian Crawford (Birkbeck/UCL) and Dr. Charles Cockell (British Antarctic Survey), will include presentations by experts from the UK, ESA and NASA.

The speakers will include Dr. Jim Garvin (NASA Chief Scientist), Dr. Bernard Foing (ESA Chief Scientist), Bernhard Hufenbach (ESA Directorate of Human Spaceflight) and Dr. Paul Spudis (Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, and a member of the President's Aldridge Commission).
(See http://www.star.ucl.ac.uk/~iac/RAS_space_meeting.html).

Media representatives are welcome to attend. Requests for interviews may be made by contacting the RAS Communications Officer, Peter Bond (see contact details above), or through the organisers, Dr. Ian Crawford and Dr. Charles Cockell (contact details at the end of this release).

Most speakers are expected to be available for interview during the lunch break, immediately after the meeting, or by prior arrangement.

The speakers will discuss:

  • the potential scientific benefits of astronauts acting as field geologists on planetary surfaces
  • the benefits of a human spaceflight infrastructure for the maintenance of space-based astronomical and geophysical instruments
  • and the potential benefits to the medical, life, and materials sciences from research conducted in the space environment
The meeting will also consider some of the potential political and cultural benefits arising from human space exploration, especially its value as a means of stimulating public interest in science and technology, and in attracting young people into science.

CONTACTS:

(RAS Review)Professor Frank CloseExeter CollegeOxfordTel.: +44 (0)1865-279600Fax: +44 (0)1865-279630 E-mail: f.close1<-at->physics.ox.ac.uk (RAS Discussion Meeting on "The Scientific Case for Human Spaceflight.")Dr. Ian CrawfordResearch School of Earth SciencesBirkbeck and University College LondonLondon WC1E 7HXTel. (work): 0207-679-3431Tel. (home): 0208-542-8836Mobile: +44 (0)777-62-34317E-mail: i.crawford<-at->ucl.ac.uk Dr. Charles Cockell British Antarctic SurveyHigh CrossMadingley RoadCambridge CB3 0ETTel: + 44 (0)1223-221560E-mail: csco<-at->bas.ac.uk
NOTES FOR EDITORS.

The long-term Aurora programme envisages a series of robotic missions to the Moon and Mars that will pave the way for a human expedition to the Red Planet by 2033.

Aurora is being considered as Europe's contribution to an international programme of robotic and human exploration of the Moon and Mars, which may eventually involve more than a dozen countries around the world.

To date, the UK has not contributed to ESA�s Human Spaceflight programme, although it has been a major participant in robotic science missions such as Beagle 2, Smart-1 and Rosetta.

FURTHER INFORMATION

RAS meeting on "The Scientific Case for Human Spaceflight"


PPARC Aurora press release: http://www.pparc.ac.uk/Nw/a_text.asp


President Bush's Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond: http://www.nasa.gov/missions/solarsystem/explore_main.html


Date: 01st December 2004

Issued by Peter Bond, RAS Communications Officer.