UK science minister backs UK astronaut programme

In his cabinet shuffle of last week, PM Gordon brown made former head of defense department procurement, recent racecar driver (!), and Ph.D. in robotics Paul Drayson the minister for science.

One of Drayson’s first public pronouncements is that the UK should have an astronaut programme to get kids into science.

I think this is a good idea. I know that astronaut programmes are very expensive, but I think they provide an excellent scientific role model. Lots of kids list “astronaut” among their dream jobs. A miniscule number ever become astronauts, obviously, but it serves as an inspiration, something to shoot for. It’s a high-profile focus for personal interest and scientific investment. I haven’t seen cost-benefit analyses to know for certain that the cost is worth it – I think that would be hard to measure – but it feels to me like it would be.