Business, Innovation and Skills
David Amess (Southend West, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what support he plans to provide to space exploration in each of the next five years; what recent reports he has received of assistance given to space exploration by the Governments and Administrations of (a) the US, (b) the Russian Federation and (c) each EU member state; and if he will make a statement.
David Willetts (Minister of State (Universities and Science), Business, Innovation and Skills; Havant, Conservative)
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills provides funding to the UK Space Agency for space activities. The one exploration project currently being funded through the European Space Agency (ESA) is ExoMars. This is a mission to explore the atmosphere, surface and sub-surface of Mars and is scheduled to be launched in two phases in 2016 and 2018.
It is funded by the UK at an average of €14 million per year. In addition there is a nationally funded UK activity of £5 million to £5.5 million per year to provide instruments for the ExoMars mission and to exploit the science and technology of this and other Mars exploration missions.
The United States was scheduled to be a major partner in ExoMars, but withdrew in early February 2012. The Russian Federation space agency Roscosmos has joined the programme and is expected to provide key elements including the launches.
ESA member states have agreed to support the ESA ExoMars programme as shown in the following table. Some increased financial support may be provided by some member states at the ESA ministerial meeting in November 2012. Most countries also have a national programme to support instruments. Through ESA, member states are studying options for Mars missions to follow ExoMars with the ultimate goal of returning samples of material from Mars for study in terrestrial laboratories. Germany, Spain and Portugal are also funding studies with ESA of a proposed robotic lunar lander mission to be launched around 2018. A decision on whether to proceed with this project will also be discussed at the November ESA ministerial meeting.
|Participating states||ExoMars (percentage)||ExoMars (€ million—2008 ec)|
The UK Space Agency is a member of the International Space Exploration Co-ordination Group which includes NASA. ISECG is engaged in multi-lateral discussions on future space exploration of the Moon, Mars and asteroids, as described on its website:
NASA continues its Mars exploration programme, notably with the landing of Curiosity in August 2012, and is building a new generation of human space exploration vehicles to take astronauts beyond Earth's orbit. Roscosmos is defining new robotic space exploration missions to the Moon and has recently announced that it may also develop a new human crew vehicle.