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|Origin:||Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Vol 55, pp 149-159|
|Abstract:||During the 1980s the Thatcher administration decided that space activities funded by the British government should be limited to the two areas of scientific research and activities with commercial potential. Among other effects, this policy led to Britain investing in neither Ariane 5 nor the 'international space station'. As a consequence, Britain is unique among 'G7' countries in having no vested interest, neither economic nor political, in either expendable launch vehicles or the ISS - neither of which will ever be profitable in the normal commercial sense. This gives Britain relative freedom to invest in more commercially valuable systems that may compete with these government-funded projects.
In recent years it has become increasingly widely accepted, including within Nasa, that the largest commercial opportunity in space is the development of passenger space travel, or 'space tourism'. However, to date, the British government has provided no support whatever for work in this field. In 2000 the parliamentary Trade and Industry Select Committee criticised this unsatisfactory situation, but their comments have been disregarded to date. This paper reviews the current situation and discusses measures that must be implemented in order for British taxpayers to obtain the greatest economic benefit from the government's space expenditure.
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