British astronauts? Yes, minister says

As part of a cabinet shakeup last week, the UK got a new science minister, Paul Drayson, a businessman who has a PhD in robotics. And within days of taking office, he is making waves by endorsing the concept of a UK astronaut program, as The Guardian reported earlier this week. The British government is studying whether it should reverse its long-standing opposition to human spaceflight, which would allow Britons to become part of ESA’s astronaut corps.

Lord Drayson said that he believes that spaceflight is an “iconic” effort that can capture children’s interest in science. “I was nine when man landed on the Moon and I know how things have an influence on the young generation,” he told the BBC later this week. “What I need to do as science minister is make sure that the current generation of young people are as excited by science as I was.” As proof of this, he said his own children became enthused about space after a visit to the Kennedy Space Center, including his 11-year-old daughter, who he said was “committed” to becoming an astronaut.

“I recognize that there are issues around budgets and so forth,” he noted, according to The Times of London. “But I want us to take into account the value that there is in the iconic project, to inspire young people.”

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