Following through on a proposal floated late last year, the United Kingdom has established the U.K. Space Agency to coordinate the country’s spacegoing efforts (H/T Nature News). The agency will continue the British space emphasis on industrial application and use. In connection with the formation of the UKSA, the British Government announced the formation of the International Space Innovation Centre, which will help support the 6 billion pound U.K. space industry. The space industry has been a rare success story during the U.K. phase of the global economic downturn, and recent analyses of the sector suggest a strong growth potential that the very pro-business Brown Government is all too happy to push.
Perhaps those concerned about the American space industry’s ability to commercialize under the Obama Administration’s post-Constellation plans should look at the British industry for pointers.
It took the Obama Administration 15 months, but they managed to finish appointing all four of the Senate-confirmed associate director positions in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) (H/T ScienceInsider) (all four have not been filled since the Clinton Administration). The intended nominee for the Associate Director of Science position is Carl Wieman, a physicist who has appointments at the University of Colorado and the University of British Columbia. Like Energy Secretary Chu, Dr. Wieman is a Nobel laureate in Physics, in his case for work on the Bose-Einstein condensate, a peculiar state of matter he and his colleagues managed to achieve in pure form back in 1995. (Whoever wrote the press release calling it “Bose-Einstein condensation” needs a talking-to.)
Assuming Dr. Wieman is confirmed (this is more of a question of when rather than if, I think), it seems likely that OSTP will step up its efforts in science education. That subject is part of the responsibilities of the Associate Director for Science, and Dr. Wieman has focused a lot of his post-Nobel work on science education. He spoke on the subject at the October PCAST meeting (scroll down to the 4 p.m. segment), and was recognized as the 2004 U.S. Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation. His work at the University of British Columbia suggests he would take a scientific approach to the subject (as odd as that sounds, it’s a bit novel in the field). This is very consistent with the philosophy of the educational reform efforts underway at the Department of Education. Sounds like the appointment could be worth the wait.