21 Nov 2008 12:02:23

David Heathcoat-Amory asks about space research

DhaDavid Heathcoat-Amory is an amateur astronomer, which may explain the following written question:

"Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how much his Department is spending on astronomy and space research in 2008-09. [237532]

Mr. Lammy: The Science and Technology Facilities Council, which is responsible for astronomy and space research, will commit £189 million to astronomy and space science research and facilities this financial year."

Fiscal conservatives are sometimes sceptical about space exploration. But it is vital for humans to be curious. The first Moon landing was a terrifically exciting, inspiring event. It would be folly not to explore space until some far-off day (which will never arrive) when our planet is free of problems.

Moreover, there have been many benefits here on Earth as a result of space exploration. These include technological advances in semiconductors, cars, tool manufacturing, computer software, air quality, lasers, CDs and design graphics. Medical improvements include scratch-resistant lenses for glasses, better dental braces, implantable insulin pumps for diabetics, and heart pacemakers.

The only question that remains is as follows. When we make contact with the Martians, should we pool our global sovereignty, or would it be better just to have a free trade agreement? I think we know what Mr Heathcoat-Amory will favour - friendship, not federalism.