The UK in space
Yuri Gagarin’s legacy lives on today in the men and women that work in space research and industry. Since the earliest days of the Space Race, UK scientists and engineers have been part of the adventure of space exploration.
Helen Sharman became the first Briton in Space in 1991 and Major Tim Peake was selected as the UK’s first official astronaut in 2009.
The UK Space Agency coordinates and promotes the UK’s space activities. Today, around 20 000 people work in the UK’s space industry. The space sector contributes more than £7.5 billion to the UK’s economy and involves more than 200 companies across the UK. As well as the people who work directly on space projects, almost 70 000 jobs are indirectly linked to space. More than 45 UK universities offer space-related courses, including astronomy, space-science and aerospace engineering. In the world rankings of space research output, the UK is second only to the USA.
UK technology is carried by spacecraft currently orbiting Mars, Venus and Saturn. A UK-built instrument was the first part of the European Space Agency’s Huygens probe to touch down on Saturn’s moon, Titan in 2005 – a record-breaking feat at 1.2 billion kilometres from Earth. The UK is a world leader in building small satellites and has expertise in the practical applications of space technology, such as satellite navigation, telecommunications, weather forecasting and disaster management.
During his flight, Gagarin commented on the beauty and fragility of planet Earth. Through missions like CryoSat-2, which measures changes to the thickness of ice sheets at the Earth’s poles, UK scientists are continuing Gagarin’s legacy of looking at the Earth from space in order to understand and protect our home planet.
To find out about careers in space, see: http://www.ukspaceagency.bis.gov.uk/Learning-Zone/Careers-Resources/8422.aspx