Royal Air Force chief backs call for UK astronauts

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The head of the Royal Air Force has lent his support to calls for the UK to enter the world of manned spaceflight, identifying the sector as a key aspect of the second century of manned flight and a means of inspiring young people to join his service.

“I would like to see an RAF astronaut in the not-too-distant future,” chief of the air staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy said during the Air League’s annual banquet in London on 15 October. “Space is an area where the UK needs more focus,” he added.

Torpy meanwhile called for a national debate on the level of funding being provided to the UK’s armed forces at a time when they are conducting parallel combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. “The ability to maintain capabilities needs investment, and it might need more than we are getting at the moment,” he said, adding: "It’s a debate the nation needs to have.”

The UK Ministry of Defence will receive funding worth £106 billion ($215 billion) over the three financial years from April 2008, with spending to peak at just 2.1% of the UK’s gross domestic product, or £36.9 billion, in 2010-11.