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UK ‘stands ready to play full part in European Space Agency’

The head of the UK’s space effort has said the country “stands ready” to play a full part in the European Space Agency (ESA).

Graham Turnock, the UK Space Agency’s chief executive is heading the delegation attending ESA’s ministerial council in Seville, Spain.

In the opening session he set out the UK’s priorities for the meeting, saying that ESA is the gold standard in international collaboration.

He said: “The UK stands ready to play a full part in ESA over the coming years at all levels.

“The UK is fully supportive of ESA’s work to evolve and usher in a new era of space where we continue to push the boundaries of the possible, engage in new and emerging markets and remain at the forefront of cutting edge science, technology, and innovation.”

The priorities he mentioned included the science budget, missions to use gravitational waves to study black holes and the new class of fast missions with comet interceptor.

Dr Turnock told the Space19+ meeting: “Space can also help us answer the current global call to arms to tackle climate change, and the UK will support, Earth observation.

“The UK is very interested in Mars sample return and the unit communications on the deep space gateway.

“We are very excited about the Lagrange space weather mission, and we welcome support from other member states here today.

“And we also agree with the DG (director general) that ESA must be a leader in cleaning up space debris.”

The UK is hoping to provide essential communication between the moon and scientists on Earth as multinational plans to build a new space station around the moon get under way.

The UK Space Agency is bidding for a slice of key activity on the proposed Lunar Orbital Platform – Gateway, a future outpost intended to serve as a laboratory and short-term accommodation post for astronauts exploring the moon.

Earlier this year Dr Alice Bunn, international director at the UK Space Agency, said that despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit she is sure the UK will have a role to play in the meeting.

She said she would like the UK to come away from the meeting with some of the key technologies that play into the global exploration system sufficiently resourced.

Dr Bunn also said she wanted the UK’s scientific priorities realised through the agreement of a global roadmap towards its next exploration efforts.

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