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Future space exploration and tourism need Shuttle to fly again, says Professor

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Imperial College London Press Release

Under embargo until time of delivery
10.00 BST
Tuesday 9 September 2003

Future space exploration and tourism need Shuttle to fly again, says Professor Book for great Earth views, the Moon and Mars but leave the stars to your dreams

In a grand tour of human space exploration, reviewing the great achievements of the past and considering possibilities for space tourism, André Balogh, Professor of Space Physics at Imperial College London, will tell the annual BA Festival of Science that all future options are on hold unless the space shuttle starts flying again and work on its replacement is seriously progressed.

Commenting directly on the final report of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, its recommendations and the consequences for space exploration, Professor Balogh says that prospects depend crucially on the availability of increased funding for NASA.

"Unless the recommendations are taken fully on board and implemented so the shuttle can resume safer flying, and a replacement is really got underway seriously this time, there is no such thing as a foreseeable future for human space flight outside science fiction," Professor Balogh will say.

"And the only way that a positive future could be guaranteed is to increase the NASA budget to something like twice its present size."

Professor Balogh will speak during this year's BA Festival of Science at The University of Salford, as part of the BA Engineering Section and Royal Academy of Engineering day of talks on the theme of 'Sustainability: engineering at new frontiers."

Professor Balogh described the fascination we have for human space exploration, saying that "robots can never replace humans waving flags", with astronauts serving as our proxies, going to places never seen before by human eyes.

Considering the future, Professor Balogh says that realistic prospects boil down to exploration in the solar system while opportunities for space tourism in the coming 30 years centre on trips into Earth-orbit 'for the most amazing views', while visits to the Moon and a possible moon-base colony, travel to Mars, and asteroid-chasing missions remain firmly in the realms of science fiction for the present time.

Looking beyond our current knowledge, to the distant future, he says that everything is contingent on "new physics, new technology and high, sustained levels of funding." He also considers the possibility of time travel through wormholes, but concludes, "It's all science fiction for now. Let's hope that the USA will make the first essential steps to get back into space safely."

Professor Balogh's talk reviews the history of space stations - MIR, its achievements and its near misses and the International Space Station (ISS) - its present status and plans for the future if the shuttle programme resumes safe flying and a shuttle replacement is developed.

He also surveys the early years of space exploration and its greatest achievements - chiefly the Apollo programme, and Apollo 13. This was a complete success, he explains, but owes much to the fact that as a national priority for the USA it was very generously funded.


For further information please contact:

Tom Miller
Imperial College London Press Office
Mobile: +44 (0)7803 886248

Notes to editors:

Professor André Balogh
André Balogh is a Professor of Space Physics. His research interests include the heliosphere and the Earth's magnetosphere as Principal Investigator on the Ulysses and Cluster missions, as well as planetary magnetospheres and magnetic fields as the first advocate for ESA's BepiColombo mission to Mercury.
Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 7768

About Imperial College London
Consistently rated in the top three UK university institutions, Imperial College London is a world leading science-based university whose reputation for excellence in teaching and research attracts students (10,000) and staff (5,000) of the highest international quality. Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and management and delivers practical solutions that enhance the quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.