Unlike the US, space politics is still in its infancy here in Europe. Back in the 70s the American L5 Society opened branches here, but the organizer departed to a good job in the states, taking all the membership records with him and without appointing any successor, so L5 in Europe died in 1979, even before its US parent merged with the US National Space Society. The writing was on the wall however, and in August-October '79, David Atkinson M.P., the late George Hay and I made arrangements for the formation in 1980, of the "All Party Space Committee" in the UK House of Commons, and the formation of the Free Space Society and Space Settlers.
Originally, Space Settlers was simply a society in support of our long term plan, and the Free Space Society was the space politics society, and a year later, it took over the European Space Promotion Organization, its predecessor, formed as a fan support organization for ESA, in the mid '70s. As virtually every member of Free Space was also a member of the Settlers , in a few more years they merged, and simply became the Space Settlers' Society.
Also in the eighties, a French Society was formed, "Union pour la Promotion de la Propulsion Photonique" which specifically favoured a light-sail race to the Moon. Together, with the various academic space societies, we did what we could to support ESA, The European Space Agency, which as everyone knows, is a combined space effort of nations across Europe, plus Canada.
Because of ESA's pan European nature, we believe the European Parliament, in conjunction with our Canadian friends, rather than the governments of individual European nations, should be responsible for the European space effort. We therefore seek contact with Members of the European Parliament, and all other groups and individuals across Europe and Canada who are interested in working with us on this, and from Africa, Asia, Australiasia, East Europe, the Orient, South America, the US and other nations for our long term plan.
Most European space societies and associations are charities. It is economic for such an organization to become one, but the laws of most European nations make it impossible for charities to campaign -some, even on a non-party basis- politically, so we have specifically avoided becoming a charity in order to leave the campaigning option open to us, though membership and most of our activities are strictly on a non-party basis.
Until very recently, so far as we are aware, we were the only specifically space politics oriented space society in the whole of Europe, so we are interested in forming branches in other European countries, and/or of course, working together for our common end with any other space politics societies or associations which do exist, and at least a couple now do exist, these are in this country, Space Age Associates, and based on the continent, the Greater Earth Initiative.
Greater Earth already has members in many countries, and we co-operated with them to at least some extent, for six months. In February 1999 Space Settlers joined and became a member organization of Greater Earth. Greater Earth has drawn up a pro-space political manifesto which we strongly support.
Pressing M.P.s at Westminster
We campaigned throughout the eighties, mainly on behalf of UK participation in the International Space Station, and we had considerable success, as our voter-postcard write-in system was at least partially responsible for persuading Maggie Thatcher to change her mind in favour of this on two occasions.
Unfortunately with the early '90s came John Major. He chopped Britain out of the venture with little warning and thereby gave no chance for us to organize a write-in. Major's Government also made it clear that the UK would contribute nothing to any manned space venture, and at the same time, froze ESA's science budget all across Europe, whereby due to inflation, the science budget becomes less and less in real terms, year by year.
Labour has never been all that keen on space, and Blair's Government at first seemed no better than Major's in this respect. Tony Blair has continued all of John Major's space policies, despite the fact that this will be appallingly detrimental to both continental Europe's and the UK's technological futures - if we have any, though recently, particularly as a result of appeals by US Astronaut Michael Foale, there are signs that this may be about to change.
So far, UK's nationalist parties don't yet seem to have space policies, and neither do the Liberal Democrats, though Paddy Ashdown, their former leader, is himself a member of "Spaceguard", the organization supporting the various scientific efforts to check out asteroids, comets etc., which cross Earth's path, and which thereby could cause a future Armageddon, and indeed, recently Lembit Opik, a LibDem M.P. managed to get Parliament to debate the Spaceguard proposition in Parliament, and the Minister concerned, did promise to give the matter his serious consideration. Subsequently, a task force has been set up to look into this - see below and the Settlers Report 2000 on our Society News Pages.
In view of this, and the fact that the Nationalists and Liberal Democrats are the fastest growing political forces in UK, it seems they offer Britain's main real chance left of ever having any future to speak of technologically. The Nationalists are rising so fast they look as if they are about to take over in Scotland, which will produce a whole new ball game. At the last election the Lib Dems gained a considerable number of seats in Westminster, and with proportional representation, they may well become part of the leading coalition in many future parliaments.
Accordingly, Settlers are presently trying to persuade these parties to back a return to UK support for manned space efforts, a restoration of ESA's science budget to its proper levels, and the establishment of a Space Studies Institute in Scotland.
Since the above was written, Lord Tanlaw has formed a new envoronmental space committee in both Lords and Commons, and with the support of Lembit Opik M.P., Spaceguard, Settlers and Space Age Associates, they have managed to persuade Lord Sainsbury, Blair's Minister of Science, to set up a U.K. Task Force to assess the asteroid threat and what the U.K. should be doing about it.
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Space Settlers' Long Term Plan and other stories,
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