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What effect did the “Iron Lady” have on Britain’s space effort?

8 Apr 2013, 15:10 UTC
What effect did the “Iron Lady” have on Britain’s space effort?
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The death of former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher has prompted much debate regarding her achievements and mistakes. But what effect did the “Iron Lady” have on Britain’s space effort?Thatcher’s record on space was mixed. As a chemistry graduate she was known to have an interest in science. However, she and her ministers refused to openly support a UK space programme, apart from a small contribution to the European Space Agency (ESA). Nevertheless, the Thatcher administration’s business- and enterprise-friendly macroeconomic policies allowed the space business to flourish, with UK expertise coming to the fore in satellite manufacture, satellite communications, scientific instrumentation, and in the space-related business areas of finance and space insurance. Thatcher, of course, benefited from Skynet/SCOT satellite communications during victory in the Falklands War in 1982. And it emerged that others had been monitoring the conflict’s progress. According to the Flightglobal/Ascend database, in late April and early May there had been a burst of launches of Soviet electronic intelligence and reconnaissance satellites.Satellite observations also affected some of Thatcher’s other policies. Observations taken by satellites later influenced her decision to push for a ban on CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) refrigerants.Having no interest in getting Britain involved in manned spaceflight, the Thatcher ...

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