The UK government has announced plans to launch a new National Space Policy in an effort make Great Britain the European hub for commercial space flight, The Independent reports. The government hopes that the initiative, which includes investment in space flight and microgravity research, will boost the country’s economy by £11.8 billion.
“For decades mankind has dreamt of space travel, and from today the UK will trigger the next scientific revolution to turn science fiction into science fact,” the UK’s Business Secretary Sajid Javid said. “Not only are we celebrating the launch of the first UK Government-backed astronaut, but our first-ever space policy will build on the inspiration he provides to grow our burgeoning space industry. Historically we haven’t been a major player in space programmes; this policy will change that.”
News of the move coincides as the UK’s first astronaut to visit the International Space Station (pictured) prepares to launch.
“I hope in future there will be more British astronauts. The International Space Station’s life will come to an end some time in the 2020s. The next project will be a lunar base. I would like us to be part of that, and also a [manned] mission to Mars looking further ahead,” former Science minister Lord Willetts said. “We were always a country that sent people out exploring, and the new frontier is space. It’s the same tradition as Captain Cook and Charles Darwin’s Beagle.”