Spencer Mahoney

Spencer Mahony

HM Consul and UKTI Regional Director for the South East United States

Part of Partners in Prosperity

28th May 2013 USA

Can You Hear Me, Major Tim?

The following is a guest post by Ryan Nalty, Business Development Associate, Advanced Engineering, UKTI.

The great British comedian, Eddie Izzard, once quipped, that British efforts in space would be equivalent to putting a man in a track suit up a ladder. Last week, that track suit became more expensive and that ladder, a tad bit longer. The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected a UK Astronaut, Maj. Timothy Peake, to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) in late 2015 for six month duration.

The selection of Maj. Peake marks a real milestone for the British space industry and the community as a whole. While other Brits have flown into space previously; all flew as American citizens with NASA or were privately funded, in the case of Helen Sharman, the first Briton in space. Maj. Peake is the first astronaut directly representing the United Kingdom.

Major Timothy Peake
Major Timothy Peake

Riding with Maj. Peake will be the greater ambitions of the UK in space, not just with HM Government, but also with the industry as well.

Late last year, Chancellor George Osborne announced the UK would be increasing its contributions to the ESA by £60m a year for the next two years. This brings the total UK investment to ESA to £240m each year, including £16m in funding for the ISS.

While this helps to make the UK more competitive within ESA, it also helps to give validity to the already £10bn UK space industry. With Maj. Peake’s upcoming stay on the ISS, many hope to show that the Brits are real players in the global space sector.

While the idea of Brits in space is an exciting, the work being done on the ISS aligns with many of the strategic sectors for the British economy, those of computing, synthetic biology, regenerative medicine, agricultural science, energy storage, robotics and advanced materials/nanotechnology.

The experiments being conducted by Maj. Peake in the Columbus laboratory module will help to lay the groundwork for future innovation in these sectors, as well as countless others.

As scientifically and economically beneficial as Maj. Peake’s stay on the ISS will be, one of the greatest impacts will also be cultural. He is showing generations of young Britons that there are avenues to the starts, and anything is achievable.  His work will reinforce the STEM education efforts within the UK currently, helping to encourage the next generation of scientists, engineers, mathematicians and even astronauts!

He will also have the benefit of providing a much needed friendly British voice coming from space. To be honest, between the Empire in the Star Wars trilogy, General Zod in Superman II, and Benedict Cumberbatch in the recent Star Trek Into Darkness, Brits usually represent the bad guys when it comes to space (with Sir Patrick Stewart and Doctor Who being notably exceptions). The friendly face and work of Maj. Peake will hopefully provide a counterpoint to this trend.

Now, probably one of most important factors;  with the viral success of Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield during his recent stay on the ISS, including his cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” Maj. Peake will probably need to start planning out for his performances. Never fear, I am here to help. An idea; a Punch and Judy retrospective in space. Just throwing it out there…

God speed Maj. Peake!

1 comment on “Can You Hear Me, Major Tim?

  1. Congratulations, Maj. Peake!

    It was about time your wonderful country took a more official seat at the ISS table! Will look forward to your British points of view from above, a refreshing addition to space.

Comments are closed.

About Spencer Mahony

Spencer Mahony took up his posting as HM Consul and Regional Director, East Coast USA for UK Trade and Investment in December 2010. Prior to his current appointment, he spent…

Spencer Mahony took up his posting as HM Consul and Regional Director, East Coast USA for UK Trade and Investment in December 2010.

Prior to his current appointment, he spent three years as Head of UK Trade and Investment in western India based in Mumbai. He covered four states accounting for over 40% of India’s GDP and managed relations with many of India’s largest investors in the UK, including the Tata Group of companies.

On secondment to the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry he directed a joint UK government and industry investigation into how the UK retains its position as a world class destination for biomedical research.

At the Department of Business, he held policy positions in energy security, regional economic development and the department’s strategy unit. He participated in EU employment law negotiations and transposed EU legislation into UK law. He was Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Minister of State for Industry and the Regions and Deputy Minister for Women and Equality.

He has also worked at the British Embassy in Beijing and was a member of the JET programme.

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