What ‘moonshot’ endeavor could better excite and inspire the British public, academia and industry (and affirm the UK’s status as a science superpower) than a literal one consisting of a British ‘Apollo Program’ that sends a crew of astronauts to the Moon by 2026? And what could be more ‘Boris’ than for our PM to be the first Briton to set foot on its lunar surface?
A ‘MOONSHOT’ — OR A ‘MARS-SHOT’?
Each generation deserves its own Moon Landing to inspire its youth to aim for horizons beyond their perceived ‘station in life.’ Baby boomers had theirs when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made history with their 1969 lunar sojourn. Having shared his childhood dream of becoming an astronaut (in his foreword to the newly-drafted National Space Strategy), what could be more inspiring to our nation than to see our Prime Minister turn that adolescent wish into an intoxicating reality by emulating US President John Kennedy’s historic 25th May 1961 address and pledging to land a British crew on the Moon’s crust by 2026 — a crew of which the PM could himself be a part as the first world leader to have ever set foot on the lunar surface?
Few acts could herald Britain’s advent as a ‘science superpower’ quite so sensationally as the gravity-defying spectacle of a British Prime Minister, clad in a spacesuit, emerging from a British lunar module to personally plant the Union Jack on the Moon. This could be followed by a 2028 British expedition to Mars to establish a permanent UK presence on the Red Planet. The costs for both cosmic voyages — a small fraction of the trillions of dollars squandered on the Iraq and Afghan conflicts — could be met through the issuing of blockchain-based (and inflation-busting) ‘Mars Bonds’ similar to the War Bonds that funded allied efforts in WWII.
Indeed, the nearly $90 billion worth of US and UK military hardware that was bequeathed to Afghanistan’s new Taliban regime this past August would have covered the costs for a fully crewed Anglo-American — or AUKUS — voyage to Mars. And even the Mullahs in Kabul would likely concur that the money could have been far better spent on such an era-defining interstellar odyssey. On just such a galactic adventure the British people must now embark.
As luck would have it the recent intra-billionaire dispute which may have stalled NASA’s planned 2024 Artemis mission to the Moon has created an opening of which Britain could take full advantage. An invitation should immediately be extended to Elon Musk to combine his space-faring efforts with those of our very own Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic enterprise and, with the participation of the UK Space Agency, all three parties could undertake the construction of a British twin of SpaceX’s ‘Starbase Texas’ launch facility at Boca Chica.
For it would be here, at the Rochdale-set (and mile-tall) ‘Starbase Britannia’, that the aerospace engineers of Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and the MoD could build the Mars Bond-funded, eight-ship fleet that would comprise a future ‘United Kingdom Starship Command’. And with these Thatcher-class Royal Starships — let’s name them ‘HMS Galactica’ (Moon missions), ‘HMS Athena’ (Mercury missions), ‘HMS Galadriel’ (Venus missions), ‘HMS Excalibur’ (Mars missions), ‘HMS Medina’ (Jupiter missions), ‘HMS Rychold’ (Saturn missions), ‘HMS Arimathea’ (Uranus missions) and ‘HMS Nazarene’ (Neptune missions) — Britain could set sail for the stars with the same nautical flair with which her maritime vessels once crisscrossed the world’s oceans to discover and settle new lands.
COP26 & THE 2029 ‘APOPHIS’ FLYBY
Since the persons who assure us that a near-Earth asteroid named ‘Apophis’ won’t collide with our planet when it makes its approach in 2029 are among the same wizards who sagely proclaimed that there were crateloads of WMD in Iraq or that Kabul wouldn’t fall to Taliban 2.0 at Warp Speed or that Donald Trump would never become President, vesting any confidence in their predictive powers or Nostradamian clairvoyance would be imprudent. For these same officials readily concede that should Apophis sail through a ‘gravitational keyhole’ in 2029 its new orbit could place it on a cataclysmic collision course with our Earth seven years later.
We surely cannot wait to make that discovery and then start scrambling like a planet of headless chickens desperately seeking to avert disaster in 2036. Preparations for Apophis must begin now. It is vital that delegates to COP26 attach the same urgency to this challenge as they’ve been devoting to ‘Net Zero’ in Glasgow over the past few days in order to ensure that the same Blitz Spirit with which the Oxford-AstraZeneca team conjured a COVID vaccine in 2020 could be summoned to place human colonies on the Moon and Mars by 2028 at the latest. The MoD could also take steps to assemble a new class of gigaton-yield nuclear ‘kill vehicles’ to deflect Apophis off any Earth-threatening trajectory or vaporize the rock altogether.
NASA officials, cut from the same cloth as their counterparts at the NSA, may nevertheless continue to insist that Apophis is a hypersonic astral boulder with which humanity needn’t concern itself. But given the planet-wide pandemonium that would ensue, are we to believe that an apocalypse-bearing asteroid is one of whose existence these bureaucrats would ever let on? After all, of the secrets which states feel compelled to keep, what could warrant greater confidentiality, occupy a higher secrecy class, or merit total concealment from public disclosure than the terrifying discovery that our species faced looming annihilation in a cosmic 9/11?
Unlike us humans, our Jurassic antecedents lacked the tools with which to foil the fate that befell them 66 million years ago when a near-Earth object finally closed the gap. What alibi could our civilization possibly offer for its own inexcusable failure to survive a similar calamity when we have it within our technological power to settle humans on other celestial bodies in order to ensure that a Chicxulub Impact, were it to recur, would have no such result?
For whether Apophis crashes into us at some future point is neither here nor there. The mere existence of this potentially hazardous galactic slab serves as a chilling reminder of the enduring peril in which we humans have placed ourselves by confining all of our anthropological eggs to one planetary basket like sitting ducks in a cosmic Squid Game.
It thus provides us with a fitting rubric for a global treaty — the Treaty of Apophis — that would require every nation on Earth to play its part in mitigating the risks of human extinction posed by a sudden catastrophic occurrence — through permanently settling humans on the Moon and Mars — as those nations now play in reducing CO2 emissions under the Paris Agreement or tackling the spread of atomic weapons under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
And in this historic endeavor, Britain now has a golden opportunity to take the lead.
(This article is excerpted from the Executive Summary of the ‘Tower of Britain’ proposal which can be found, in full, at https://towerofbritain.com/)
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Bitakaramire is an experienced ecommerce and marketing professional as well as a published writer whose articles have appeared in Britain’s Spectator magazine and elsewhere.