Tim Peake blasts off into space in a Russian rocket that looks like a prop from a 1950s Sci-Fi film and joins the crew of the International Space Station. I’m not quite sure where the silly idea that he’s the first Briton in space comes from, he’s actually the seventh, the first of whom was Helen Sharman way back in 1991. But it’s all good for national pride having another one of us in orbit.
There are inevitably some self-righteous individuals who complain that space exploration is a waste of money. It should be spent on schools and hospitals, or a new road, they pompously proclaim. But they’re wrong.
If nothing else, space is a cultural loss-leader.
I was eight years ago when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked upon the surface of the Moon. I still remember it all vividly. It was the first significant historical event of my lifetime that an eight year old could understand. The blanket media coverage caught the public imagination in a way few other scientific projects could hope to achieve.
It’s things like that which inspire a generation to pursue careers in science and engineering, who will then go on to solve more mundane practical problems. That inspiration will benefit hospitals and railways and flood prevention and all the other things our complex civilisation needs to be designed and built by the next generation of engineers.
Every single eight year old who’s inspired by Tim Peake heading off into space and as a result doesn’t head for a career in finance playing zero-sum shell games in the City will be a win.