Debates between Lord Ravensdale and Lord McNally

There have been 1 exchanges between Lord Ravensdale and Lord McNally

1 Mon 15th July 2019 Space Science and Technology
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
2 interactions (879 words)

Space Science and Technology

Debate between Lord Ravensdale and Lord McNally
Lord Ravensdale Portrait Lord Ravensdale (CB)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, for tabling this debate. Project Apollo was and remains a great technical achievement of humankind. It has inspired millions around the world and it is an honour to have the opportunity to help commemorate the 50th anniversary of the moon landings today.

Everything about Apollo astounds. When President Kennedy set the goal of a manned moon landing in 1961, only a single American had flown in space on a suborbital flight, yet the President had the ambition—almost the audacity—to commit the nation to a moon landing before the end of the decade. The resulting machine, the Saturn V moon rocket, was the most powerful machine ever built.

I am a nuclear engineer. Designing nuclear reactors is not quite rocket science, although it gets close at times and makes me appreciate the engineering genius behind Apollo all the more. I remember how inspirational Apollo was to me as a child. Sadly, I cannot claim to recall where I was at the time of the moon landings, but I pored over the details of the mission. It played a key part in my decision to pursue a career in engineering. It is that ability to be inspired and excited by the future that gets children interested in science and engineering, as the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, pointed out. That is one of the great legacy benefits of the programme.

The dreams that many had in the 1960s about the future of space flight never quite transpired, yet we are at a critical juncture in the history of space flight, driven in the main by the development of reusable rockets by private industry in America. I believe they will transform the economics of space flight and will lead to many opportunities and growth in the sector. On the 50th anniversary of Apollo, it seems wholly appropriate that space is becoming really exciting again.

The UK has an excellent, thriving industry in the production of satellites, which the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, referred to. It would be really inspirational to get the capability to launch those satellites back in the UK. I note the really positive developments with spaceports in Cornwall and Scotland. Several private companies in the UK are looking at developing launch technology—for example, small launch vehicles and engines for reusable launch vehicles—and the Government should look closely at the funding of those efforts. Contracts to kick-start private investment in those areas could pay dividends, mirroring the approach used so successfully in America. There is an opportunity to capture that before it is lost to others.

I finish with something about the spirit of Apollo. It was a great endeavour, with the whole nation united to achieve a single goal. Maybe that same spirit is what we need to resolve the climate challenges of today.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, I first congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, and send good wishes for the People’s Moon project. I hope that the media give it the coverage it deserves and that it succeeds.

My locus in speaking in this debate is twofold. I hope it is not thought of as one-upmanship to say that I was in Downing Street on 14 October 1969 when Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were received by Harold Wilson as part of the world tour that followed their journey to the moon. I have a son, James, who works in Munich as a space vehicle controller—a title that slightly worries me, but he assures me it is perfectly safe.

The past 50 years have seen an amazing movement forward in unmanned exploration. The noble Lord, Lord Rees, was right to draw attention to the fact that we were probably right: the brief we have had and “8 Days: To the Moon and Back” showed, perhaps more than we knew at the time, just how perilous that journey to the moon was.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said, we really are going into a new space age, with lots of encouraging things happening—not least the work by Professor Brian Cox, which has been mentioned, Tim Peake and his adventures and successive Governments in the past 10 years giving legislative and investment support to our space industries.

There are, however, still things that worry me. The noble Lord, Lord Rees, mentioned the future of our participation in the European Space Agency. The Government must really make clear what their intentions and hopes are for our participation in the European Space Agency. I worry that we are moving away from:

“We came in peace for all mankind”.

The Chinese, the Russians, the United States and France all seem to be developing military capacity in space. What is the Government’s view of these dangers? A number of speakers have also talked about the environmental clean-up in space.

I was very interested in the comment from Buzz Aldrin in “8 Days: To the Moon and Back”. On the way back from the moon, he said that space travel would continue because of,

“the insatiable curiosity of all mankind”.

My son James has told me that what has inspired him more than anything else was that “Earthrise” image taken by Apollo 8—our earth suspended in the void. It is a reminder of both our urge to explore new frontiers and our responsibility to our fragile blue planet.