Today marks the 50th anniversary of the blast-off of Britain’s Black Arrow rocket, launching the UK into the space age – and with 25 percent of thew world’s small telecommunications satellites currently build in Britain, the potential is plain for all to see. Mr Cummings, who is overseeing a wide-ranging Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) outlined his ideas in a blog published last June, less than a month before he was appointed Boris Johnson’s special adviser.
He wrote: “We need to consider projects that could bootstrap new international institutions that help solve more general coordination problems such as the risk of accidental nuclear war.
“The most obvious example of a project like this I can think of is a manned international lunar base which would be useful for a) basic science, b) the practical purposes of building urgently needed near-Earth infrastructure for space industrialisation, and c) to force the creation of new practical international institutions for cooperation between Great Powers.”
Mr Cummings referred to plans devised by George Mueller, NASA’s former associate administrator, and the man widely credited with masterminding the Apollo missions, for precisely such a base – plans which Mr Cummings said had been “tragically abandoned” in the 1970s.
Jeff Bezos is explicitly trying to revive the Mueller vision and Britain should be helping him do it much faster
He added: “Jeff Bezos is explicitly trying to revive the Mueller vision and Britain should be helping him do it much faster.”
Mr Cummings, who was campaign director for Vote Leave, had little faith in Brussels to deliver workable solutions.
He said: “The old institutions like the UN and EU – built on early 20th Century assumptions about the performance of centralised bureaucracies – are incapable of solving global coordination problems.
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“It seems to me more likely that institutions with qualities we need are much more likely to emerge out of solving big problems than out of think tank papers about reforming existing institutions.”
The cost of building such a base could run into hundreds of billions – but the return could be “trillions”, he predicted, “or near infinite if shifting our industrial/psychological frontiers into space drastically reduces the chances of widespread destruction”.
Explaining his vision in 1969 in an interview with the American Red Cross Youth Journal, Mr Mueller said: “We would probably put a space station in lunar orbit and use it as a mobile base.
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“If you go into polar orbit around the moon, you will be able to pass within 60 miles of every point on the surface of the moon every two weeks.
“All you need, then, is a vehicle to fly down to the surface of the moon and back up again in much the same fashion as our lunar module.
“When we have completed our early phase of intended exploration of the moon and found a place on the moon where we could build a base, we will simply go down and build it.”
Mr Bezos’ Blue Origin space company aims to take people to the moon by 2024, with a view to established a manned base there, he announced last year.
He said: “We have been given a gift – this nearby body called the moon.”
To this end, his company is working on the Blue Moon, a robotic space cargo carrier and lander for making cargo deliveries to the Moon.
US Vice President Mike Pence previously called on Nasa to build a space platform in lunar orbit and put American astronauts on the moon’s south pole within five years “by any means necessary”.
Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is thinking even bigger, with plans to establish a base on Mars.
Asked, two years ago on Twitter, when such a base could be up and running, he replied: “Probably 2028 for a base to be built.”
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