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Minister Declares UK Ready For Lift-Off But Rules Out Moonshoot

(Karl Black / Alamy Stock Photo)

3 min read

The space minister Andrew Griffith has ruled out sending British astronaut Tim Peake to the moon with the upcoming Artemis III mission.

Despite the American space agency NASA telling the science secretary Michelle Donelan it was “incredibly possible” a British person could appear on the mission – originally scheduled for 2025 but has since delayed by a year to 2026 – and Donelan herself claiming it was “only a matter of time until we get a British person on the Moon”, Griffith dampened the idea in an interview with The House.

He said: “We’re not sending Tim Peake to the moon, we’re sending him back to the International Space Station (ISS).

“I hope that doesn’t come as bad news to Tim but I think that’s a mistake. I think that’s a misunderstanding or misspeak.” 

Peake, the first British astronaut to go into the ISS and do a space walk, has already said he hopes to walk on the moon.

All 12 people who have ever walked on the moon’s surface, on missions by NASA’s Apollo space programme, have been American.

NASA officials visited London last July to discuss an “international partner” joining the Artemis III mission, which will also see a woman and person of colour visit the moon for the first time.

But Griffith said: “I don’t think we’re planning on putting a Brit on the moon in 2025 (when Artemis III was originally scheduled).” 

Plans are instead still being developed for either a British-led or all-British space mission through a deal between the UK Space Agency and US company Axiom Space.

The future flight would see them spend up to two weeks in orbit to carry out scientific experiments and participate in educational activities through a commercially sponsored trip, supported by the European Space Agency (ESA).

As space minister, Griffith is focused on growing investment into the UK’s space market and has broadened the venture capital framework for space, which was set out in the government’s National Space Strategy in Action document, to cover all private investment.

“How do we crowd in private capital alongside the substantial public capital we’re putting in? I think the classic things will be raising awareness. It’s a category that people need to understand,” he told The House

“I think having things like a space strategy, which the UK didn’t have until recently, gives people a long-term roadmap so they understand what we’re doing as a government.”

One in £8 of private investment in space is already being spent in the UK and, after the United States, it is the second highest destination for private investment: “That is pretty good,” Griffith, the former city minister, added. 

“I would say UK PLC is open for launch and we look forward to hearing customers’ plans in 2024”.

Further details of the private investment strategy are expected to be revealed when the revised Space Sector plan is published later this year.

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