Space Science and Technology - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:17 pm on 15th July 2019.

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Photo of Lord McNally Lord McNally Liberal Democrat 8:17 pm, 15th July 2019

My Lords, I first congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, and send good wishes for the People’s Moon project. I hope that the media give it the coverage it deserves and that it succeeds.

My locus in speaking in this debate is twofold. I hope it is not thought of as one-upmanship to say that I was in Downing Street on 14 October 1969 when Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were received by Harold Wilson as part of the world tour that followed their journey to the moon. I have a son, James, who works in Munich as a space vehicle controller—a title that slightly worries me, but he assures me it is perfectly safe.

The past 50 years have seen an amazing movement forward in unmanned exploration. The noble Lord, Lord Rees, was right to draw attention to the fact that we were probably right: the brief we have had and “8 Days: To the Moon and Back” showed, perhaps more than we knew at the time, just how perilous that journey to the moon was.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said, we really are going into a new space age, with lots of encouraging things happening—not least the work by Professor Brian Cox, which has been mentioned, Tim Peake and his adventures and successive Governments in the past 10 years giving legislative and investment support to our space industries.

There are, however, still things that worry me. The noble Lord, Lord Rees, mentioned the future of our participation in the European Space Agency. The Government must really make clear what their intentions and hopes are for our participation in the European Space Agency. I worry that we are moving away from:

“We came in peace for all mankind”.

The Chinese, the Russians, the United States and France all seem to be developing military capacity in space. What is the Government’s view of these dangers? A number of speakers have also talked about the environmental clean-up in space.

I was very interested in the comment from Buzz Aldrin in “8 Days: To the Moon and Back”. On the way back from the moon, he said that space travel would continue because of,

“the insatiable curiosity of all mankind”.

My son James has told me that what has inspired him more than anything else was that “Earthrise” image taken by Apollo 8—our earth suspended in the void. It is a reminder of both our urge to explore new frontiers and our responsibility to our fragile blue planet.