UK argues for commercial role in lunar exploration

London
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The UK is urging government-funded space agencies to focus their Moon mission efforts on developing technologies that do not yet exist - and leave development of applications based on existing technology to the private sector.

According to British National Space Centre director general David Williams, a good example is infrastructure for communication between Earth and the Moon. At the recent future UK activities in space event held by Inside Government, he said that the UK has urged NASA and its counterparts not to develop a new system when the private sector could already do the job.

"The agencies should focus on the leading edge [technology] and anything behind it should be unloaded to the private sector. That's the sort of debate we are undertaking," says Williams. Space agencies, he says, should focus on technologies for capabilities that do not exist such as lunar landers and lunar surface power systems.

Williams' remarks come as 14 of the world's space agencies discuss a global exploration strategy for future co-operation. A joint framework for the strategy that supports work on space vehicle interoperability, property rights agreements and a forum called the international co-ordination mechanism was published in May. The BNSC is also discussing bilateral lunar exploration co-operation with NASA and the two organisations' Joint Study Group technical team will publish its final report this month.

Separately, Williams says of the prospect of UK involvement in human spaceflight: "We are not immediately going to find £200 million [$414 million]." The BNSC does not expect any UK astronaut programme to be funded until 2011.