Thursday, 15 October 2020 08:27

UK Space Agency to take major role in Nasa’s Artemis moonshot

The UK Space Agency (UKSA) has signed an agreement with Nasa to play a key role in the upcoming Artemis project, which aims to put the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024.

Businesses across the UK will be involved in building the service module and habitation module of the Lunar Gateway, a new space station orbiting the Moon.

UKSA said it expects the deal will generate economic benefits and create high-skilled jobs. The Agency originally put in bids for the project last year with SSTL, a manufacturer of small satellites based in Guildford, leading the offering.

The UK has already committed over £16m for the first phase of the design of these elements.

With numerous countries and companies conducting operations in space, UKSA said it is “vital” to establish a set of principles to govern the civil exploration and use of outer space.

The US worked with the UK, along with spacefaring nations including Japan, Australia, Canada, Italy and the UAE, to develop the Artemis Accords, a set of principles to ensure a shared understanding of safe operations, use of space resources, minimising space debris and sharing scientific data.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “The prospect of the first woman landing on the Moon in the coming years will be a source of inspiration for thousands of young people across the UK who may be considering a career in space or science.”

“Today’s historic agreement, backed by £16m of UK funding, underlines our commitment to strengthening the UK’s role in the global space sector, building on our existing strengths in satellites, robotics and communications to grow our economy and improve life on Earth.”

UKSA chief executive Graham Turnock, who signed the Artemis Accords during a virtual ceremony at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), said: “Signing the Accords is a strong signal of our intent to take a leading global role in civil space.

“We hope to deepen our relationship with the US when it comes to space and enhance the UK’s global influence in the space sector. This exciting step could open up new opportunities for UK companies and scientists to be part of Nasa missions to the Moon and Mars.”

Sustaining human life for long periods of time on space missions is a significant challenge and one that requires resources such as water, building materials and fuel. As transporting these resources into space is expensive, a key enabler of future missions will be the ability to extract and use resources from the Moon, asteroids or Mars.

On Monday, Australian scientists unveiled plans to build a new optical communications station that will likely be used to beam back high-definition footage from the Moon in real time when the landing happens in 2024.


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