Pamela Nash on World Space Week 2021

Our chief executive Pamela Nash was Vice Chair of the UK Parliamentary Space Committee 2010-15, and UK Representative to the European Interparliamentary Space Conference 2010-15.


This week, people across the globe have been coming together to mark World Space Week, where our achievements in space exploration and the subsequent advances in technology are celebrated.

The main theme this year is celebrating women working in space, not just as astronauts but throughout the industry; the technicians, scientists and researchers that make the magic happen.

The aim is to show young people (especially young women who remain underrepresented in these fields) the variety of careers available in this area, the benefits of such a career, and the contribution they can make to our continual learning about the world around us, and beyond.

Investment in space is often labelled as vanity projects for governments and billionaires, and maybe this is sometimes the case.

And in times when the number in economic hardship is growing, then spending money on space seems like an unaffordable luxury. Of course, tackling poverty and inequality must be given priority.

But this is not an unaffordable luxury; it is an essential investment in our workforce and economy in ensuring that we are at the forefront of future technologies.

In Scotland, we have programmes such as the Scottish Space School run by Strathclyde University, helping to inform young students about these opportunities and let them hear first-hand from those working in the sector, even the astronauts themselves.


And the Clydeside, already famous for being the centre of industry past and present, is now home to companies producing commercially viable satellites.

At the moment they need to travel thousands of miles to launch them, but soon they will be able to do so in Scotland from our new Saxa Vort Spaceport in Shetland. The latest figures show that over 7,500 people are already employed in the Scottish space sector and this has been growing rapidly.

With the world’s space economy expected to grow from £270bn in 2019 to £490bn by 2030, we cannot afford not to be part of it.

At the same time, by doing so we continue to invest in scientific research for the advancement of the human race. Space has an important part to play in that.

This is not just about putting a man on the moon, or a woman on Mars. It is about finding solutions to the world’s problems, from simply finding directions to tackling climate change and disease.

Satellite technology has given us GPS, is providing broadband in areas where laying cables is difficult, is allowing ever improving weather forecasts and is helping identify problems too, such as areas of deforestation and is even being used in the battle against malaria.

The expense of space investment has also led to countries across the world working ever closer together to share the cost and rewards of this research, arguably more so than in any other area and creating a model for international partnership. Looking for value for money has helped lead to the pinnacle of what we have achieved together.

And the International Space Station is the ultimate symbol of humans and nations working together from across the world.

In the past, our achievements in space and associated technology have been achieved working together, arguably more so than in any other area.

In the future, by continuing to do so we will find solutions to global issues, build on our relationships with other countries and increase the interconnectivity of nations and peoples.

Scotland, as part of the UK, is a world leader in space and satellite technology. This is something to be proud of that is rarely given the attention it deserves.

So why is SIU saying anything about the space industry at all?

At a time when opportunities for global partnership to achieve solutions to global problems are increasing, with space technologies being a prime example, why on earth would we choose to put any sort of barrier up that would hinder our relationship with the rest of the world?

The UK remains a member of the European Space Agency, which is not an EU body, and we work with other countries both through the UN and bilaterally on space and satellite technology.

The UK Space Agency has now launched a new strategy to ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of this area and it helps our economy to grow; and Scotland is at the heart of this strategy with our new spaceport and burgeoning satellite industry.

We, the people of Scotland, have a thriving space industry and contribute to the world’s sector not despite being in the UK, but as a thriving part of the UK.

Let’s continue to be at the heart of the world’s exciting work in space.


You can read more about Space Week from Patrick Harkness here.