Britain's first space agency will begin operating next month in an effort to coordinate U.K. space activities while raising the country's profile in the global space economy, officials said Tuesday.
With an initial operating budget of 230 million pounds ($346 million) — modest compared with NASA's yearly $19 billion — the government said the new UK Space Agency would nevertheless create tens of thousands of jobs while developing a recession-defying industry that up to now has received little attention, The Associated Press reports.
"Britain's space industry has defied the recession," Science and Innovation Minister Paul Drayson said. "It can grow to 40 billion pounds a year and create 100,000 jobs in 20 years."
Britain's space industry has traditionally focused on satellites and robotics rather than manned space flight.
However, Britain supports a European Space Agency mission that aims to send humans to Mars by the middle of this century in what would be the most ambitious endeavor in the history of space exploration.
British scientists worked on the Apollo Moon missions and a handful of Britons have flown in space, according to Reuters.
Science Minister Lord Drayson said he would like to see space vehicles launched from the UK one day. He revealed more of his vision for space when asked what he hoped to see happen in the next 50 to 100 years.
"I'd certainly like to see human beings living on Mars,” he said. “That should be do-able technically over that period."
Major Timothy Peake, Britain’s first "homegrown" astronaut, had the job of starting a countdown to unveiling the space agency's "flying arrow" logo, at London’s Queen Elizabeth II centre.
The astronaut is training in Russia prior to flying on missions to the International Space Centre, Belfast Telegraph reported.