British Army Apache gunship pilot to be UK astronaut says BBC

by | May 20, 2009 | Seradata News | 0 comments

You can watch the European Space Agency press conference about its new astronaut selection live by webcast here today from 1215h GMT (1315h CET) but news about one of apparently six, not four, candidate astronauts has already leaked out to the British Broadcasting Corporation care of UK Ministry of Defence “sources”

In response to the leak the BBC story qoutes ESA human spaceflight director Simonetta Di Pippo as saying the agency wanted “additional astronauts”. Previously ESA had talked about only four astronauts and four reserves

Interviewed by Hyperbola on 16 May Di Pippo would not be drawn on any aspects of the astronaut selection. Hyperbola had heard, but been unable to confirm, that a UK armed forces helicopter pilot had made it through much of the selection process and that a UK Royal Air Force pilot had also reached the last two dozen or so candidates and so had cheekily described the UK candidate as a “pilot-astronaut” in its 3 May 2009 blog post

Now it is known that a UK serviceman has been selected the question is, what deal was done? Because an astronaut is a major investment that has huge implications for the programmes that it is expected of nations to invest in. It must mean the UK will invest in optional programmes where previously the country has only paid into the mandatory ones

Hyperbola hopes to get an interview later today or tomorrow with the UK candidate and the UK minister for science and innovation (and space) Lord Drayson whose decision this would have been – along with his Prime minister Gordon Brown one imagines

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