The UK is to send a specially trained dog to the International Space Station, Flightglobal.com can exclusively reveal.
The British National Space Organisation (BNSO) has told Flightglobal a dog will be selected through a national televised competition to fly to the space station in 2012, to coincide with the London Olympics and Crufts, at a cost of £1.3 million. A human astronaut would cost £200 million.
"Ideally we would like a British bulldog named Winston, I know the Prime Minister would like that. Nobody can say we haven't got an agenda of ambition," says BNSO director Rex Barker, whose staff dreamt up the Space-Rover programme, also dubbed "the dog-o-naut".
Trained and launched by the Russians the British dog-o-naut would have parabolic flights to recreate zero-gravity, spacesuit familiarity and spacesuit-nappy conditioning. Russia sent 13 dogs into orbit between November 1957 and May 1961.
On the space station its astronauts and cosmonauts will conduct experiments on the dog, using the new Solaria Pod Fly instrument. The experiments could include mobility training such as playing fetch and how the dog reacts to the command "sit" in zero-g. However UK space experts have ruled out any suggestion of a spacewalk by the dog.
Above: How UK's Space Rover could look in 2012
The BNSO also hopes British fashion designers could design the dog's space suit and would encourage potential advertising and sponsorship opportunities for the dog, its mission, such as the mission name, and its space equipment.
Upon the dog's return the BNSO envisages a ticker-tape parade and a national tour of primary schools for children to be inspired to take up science following the dog's adventure.Watch a video of dogs experiencing microgravity during parabolic flights ...
Discuss the dog-o-naut mission on AirSpace ...