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Britain unveils its space strategy

Britain's space officials promised to enhance the nation's standing in space science, increase productivity and develop innovative technologies.
/ Source: Reuters

Britain set out its three-year space strategy on Tuesday, promising to enhance its standing in astronomy and planetary sciences, increase productivity and to develop innovative technologies.

As the British-built Beagle 2 Mars lander prepared for the final stage of its journey to the Red Planet, Science Minister Lord Sainsbury promised to build on Britain’s record of scientific discovery.

“Space is recognized as one of the essential tools that will help us understand the earth, the solar system and the universe,” he said in a statement. “The government’s decision to invest in Beagle 2 has demonstrated our commitment to achieving these aims through innovative and cutting-edge solutions,” he added.

Britain plans to continue investing selectively in space technology. The strategy describes how the country plans to achieve greater use and markets for all types of space services. It also emphasizes the importance of opening up new opportunities in areas such as telecommunications and global positioning systems.

Sainsbury cited Beagle 2, which is due to be ejected from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter on Friday for a Christmas Day landing on the planet, as an example of what can be accomplished.

“Beagle 2 is a benchmark project which will provide the U.K. with scientific and industrial capabilities for the future,” he added.

Turnover in Britain’s space industry increased by 17 percent to $5 billion from 1999 to 2001, and employment in the industry rose by 14 percent, according to a study commissioned last year by the British National Space Center, which is responsible for the country’s space policy.