UK to Send British Astronauts to Space
| By Xuan Zhong |
The UK Space Agency (UKSA) has signed an agreement with the US company Axiom Space to send astronauts into space. The astronauts in the program, all of whom will be British, will spend up to two weeks in space conducting scientific research, demonstrating new technologies, and engaging in education and outreach activities. The UK Space Agency is currently collecting ideas from UK universities, research institutes, and industry for technologies that could be tested by the British astronauts during the program.
Sending British astronauts into space is a change from previous British policy. Unlike the US, Russia, and China space programs, the UK has not previously provided extensive support for a British astronaut program. Past British government policies have deemed crewed space programs as being too expensive or unaffordable for the UKSA. Instead, the UK Space Agency has focused on putting science experiments on unmanned space probes in partnerships with NASA and the European Space Agency. Most of the British-heritage astronauts who did go to space typically became US citizens and traveled to space with NASA, took part in European Space Agency missions, or traveled to space as paying tourists.
The UK government wants to improve the quality-price ratio of its space exploration program and expand the scope of space program exploration. Officials involved in the UK space program want to test more technologies in space so that they can mature and be applied more quickly. Recent advances in space launch efficiency by companies such as SpaceX building reusable rockets have reduced cost-to-orbit expenses, making crewed programs more affordable and accessible.
Photo Credit: UK Space Agency