This blog post was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Rosalind Campion portrait

Rosalind Campion

Counsellor for Global Issues

Part of UK in USA

24th July 2012 Washington DC, USA

Dreams of the final frontier, realized

Many children dream of being an astronaut – but it wasn’t til I had qualified as a lawyer and worked for some years as a civil servant that the realisation hit me. It happened during my honeymoon, at New York’s Natural History Museum monthly SciCafe. Astrophysicist and Hayden Planetarium Director Neil deGrasse Tyson delivered an exceptionally inspirational talk and suddenly I knew what the space fuss was all about. And I wanted a part of it. Unfortunately my colleagues raised their eyebrows and suggested it might be a bit late for me to be an astronaut. I consoled myself with listening to an astrophysics lecture series and dreaming of the stars.

And so, it was with much gratification, that last week I walked through the hallowed halls of NASA itself and realised my career choice had been right all along. Because the UK has a lot of links with NASA – there’s collaboration with the UK Space Agency of course, which covers a range of areas – most significantly on the James Webb Space Telescope, where the UK led a consortium that designed and built an instrument containing an Infrared camera. Less well known, perhaps, is the collaboration between the UKSA and NASA on space medicine. The idea is that there’s a lot we can learn from the impact of space on the human body that is useful here on Earth. And the purpose of my visit was both to talk about the importance of the UK-USA collaboration, and to explore innovative opportunities for the future, like the impact of microgravity on cellular reproduction. And as though the opportunity to do that wasn’t exciting enough, they also gave me a tour, showed me the control room, let me step inside a simulator, and presented me with a piece of British flag that had actually been in space aboard the space shuttle Endeavour, in 2010. I tried to remain suave, as though this wasn’t now officially one of my coolest possessions.

I may not be likely to fulfil my astronaut dreams, but I’m not alone in having them – there is something about space and the astronauts who pioneered there, such as the great Sally Ride who died yesterday, that inspires. Astronauts like Sally and space collaborations have pushed the boundaries of innovation and imagination, and hold the power to inspire whole populations with what the human race can achieve. And while perhaps space activities are not always as obvious as putting a man on the moon or the first US woman into space, I’m thrilled that I get to play even a tiny part in ensuring the UK’s role in continually pushing the boundaries of knowledge and possibility.

About Rosalind Campion

Rosalind Campion was appointed Counsellor for Global Issues at the British Embassy in Washington DC in 2011. Her team works on policy issues including trade, business, energy, the environment, science,…

Rosalind Campion was appointed Counsellor for Global Issues at the British Embassy in Washington DC in 2011. Her team works on policy issues including trade, business, energy, the environment, science, innovation and transport.

Originally a corporate lawyer working in London on intellectual property issues, Roz was most recently with the Ministry of Justice, where she set up and ran the Sentencing Council, the national organisation responsible for ensuring a consistent approach to criminal sentencing by the UK’s judiciary.

She has previous experience working on foreign policy issues, including during her time at the Ministry of Justice, as well as through her work with the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency and as a lawyer working on international law cases for a top human rights litigation firm.

During her time in academia, Roz was responsible for the public international law programme at School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, where she specialised in international trade and environment law.

She lives in Georgetown with her partner, Dr Layla McCay.

Follow Rosalind