back to article Air chief: UK should have RAF astronaut

The head of the Royal Air Force (RAF) has said the UK should have a manned space programme, and that his organisation should provide astronauts. Flight International reports that Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy expressed his views at a big dinner in London this week. The good marshal apparently felt that the lure of …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Very good reason

    Only the Royal Navy (Fleet Air Arm) and RAF have fast jet pilots.

    The RM and Army only fly whirlybirds, which is a different skill to landing a Space Shuttle, altogether more like flying a glider.

  2. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Sounds familiar

    Ah the RAF is looking towards the time when our little robot friends have pushed the handlebar moustache brigades out of their cockpits and a whole lot of wannabe-Biggles will be looking for work. So rather than go and get useful jobs somewhere else, they want taxpayer tin cans to keep them in the Right Stuff.

    The US had this debate almost 50 years ago when the Army, Navy and Air Force all squabbled over who would run the high frontier.

    In the end the first American to go into orbit turned out to be a Marine.

  3. Dave
    Paris Hilton

    at least he is forward-looking

    mad, but forward-looking.

    I thought Torpy was an RAF 'old schol', permanently-rearranging-the-enemy's-hard-landscaping-is-the-only-language-they-understand", type of cove

    Perhaps his elevated position in the MoD hierarchy has made him light-headed?

  4. Raheim Sherbedgia

    Choice of Military

    The reason the USAF doesn't supply much in the way of NASA space people, is that the USAF doesn't really fly very much; at least not on the same scale as the Navy. The USAF is pretty much there to drop nukes and other strategic weapons from their gigantic planes, and to train mindlessly in fire fighting (as in putting out real fires)

    The Navy are the U.S.'s biggest flyers so that's why NASA gets their people from them.

    P.S. The Marines are part of the Navy- (they just don't swim or fly as well) but do sometimes get to go into space.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Armstrong was a civilian...

    He was in the Navy and flew in Korea but he left the Navy and was flying for NACA as a civilian. Unlike the military folks who were paid by the various military agencies he was a NASA (as NACA became) employee through and through.

    There is some debate that this is part of the reason he got the first landing and was the first to step out, he was non military (not convinced seeing that old Buzz was Air Force).

  6. Stuart Butterworth


    for extended missions, wouldnt the Royal Navy be a better source of astronauts?

    Submariners, especially, would be the best choice for people to cram into tin cans with next-to-no privacy and no personal space for months on end.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Space Shuttle

    "...landing a Space Shuttle, altogether more like flying a glider."

    A glider with the weight and aerodynamics of two sherman tanks (I know I'm quoting, but not sure whom. To paraphrase good old Monty Python: "Not so much glide as plummet."

  8. Scott Bartlett

    Obvious really, but...

    ... I think we should thus start scanning all the UK primary school class registers for a certain young Mr Daniel Dare... he must be out there somewhere :-)


  9. Chris G Silver badge

    I say!

    I say! mission control ? the jolly old computer thingy seems to have a gremlin, cant wind the robot arm in, what?

    Mission control to British enterprise: try rebooting, but first make sure it's plugged in.

    Sorry old chap don't understand your banter.........

  10. Jon Teda
    Paris Hilton

    Whatever it takes..

    I think it would have a salutory effect on British citizens to have a space program. Governments spend a lot of money on less savory things and a space program, while having little perceived value, can bring positive unanticipated consequences. Imagine what the English vesion of Tang would taste like? A bad joke but merely to point out that a strong commitment can create research which is valuable in other fields.

  11. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Telling IT like IT is .....

    "Sorry old chap don't understand your banter........."

    I say, Chris G old chap, don't you know that is how they get right to the heart of the System to take Control of IT.

    Anonymous Coward, Are you listening, old bean? Or is it only booming loud and NEUKlearer in the East?

    cc ......but only if he has the balls to Fix the System. I wouldn't want him to be wasting our time pratting around playing to an incestuous home grown audience..... for the world is a much bigger stage when in Control of CyberSpace.

    "I think it would have a salutory effect on British citizens to have a space program." ...... Jon Teda, We've been pioneering in that deeper intellectual environment literally for ages. What on Earth do you think Bowie was doing with his Ziggy manifestation. Then, of course, he didn't have the Addictive Benefit of Instant Real Communication.

    Now the RNA/DNA Program has gone Native 42C++apture the Imagination of the World Wide Web with ITs NeuReal Virtual Drivers. You know, AIBattle of Britain2 with a Few scrambled into ProAction with HyperRadioProActivity and ITs ZeroDay Cross Site Injection of Scripted Codes. And yes, you can assured that with Memory of Hindsight, the Binary Battle is already Run and Won ....and this time we haven't been fooled again, wicked Uncle Ernie/Sam/Bill/George/Sue.

    Now, you can either accept that as a Simply Complex Matter of Fact and build upon IT, in AI Beta Global Civil CyberSpace Program for the Good of ALL or you can go into AI Self-Denial Mode and challenge yourself to understand IT with the Dumb and Dumber Military Industrial Complex machine, the choice is yours to make or break you. But we've been here before and the result again and again will always be the exact same ..... "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

    "This war is only a continuation of the last, but very great differences in its character are apparent. In the last war millions of men fought by hurling masses of steel at one another. Prodigious slaughter was the consequence. In this war nothing of this kind has yet appeared. It is a conflict of strategy, organisation, technical apparatus, science, mechanics, and morale." ......,,128255,00.html

    cc. Global Communications HQ.

    IT is nothing to worry about.... just something to get used to as IT Offers ITs Services to you. I Kid U Not.

    Bury your heads in the sand if you don't want to hear but be prepared to a kick up the rear for all of your troubles. The Game has Changed.

  12. Jon Teda

    re; amanfromMars

    Did you take some time to also read some Ted Kascynski?

  13. Adrian Esdaile

    If my memory serves me correctly...

    Eccles & Bluebottle were the first Brits in space - attempting to put out the sun as it was on fire.

    When I first read this article the first thing the came into my head was "HMS Camden Lock" followed shortly by Arnold Rimmer.

    Can I has an icon too just liek namanmanflommars KTHXBAI

  14. Pie Eater

    Anon Coward

    Nearly right, but at least one RM officer made the transfer to FW and flew the Sea Harrier. Rare, but possible. The Army do have some FW aircraft, and are getting some slow jets soon, BTW.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Mr Page needs to check his facts...

    Mace, like Sharman, trained as a private individual.

    The only UK Govt sponsored astronaut candidates were Sqn Ldr Nigel Wood (a tp and former Lighning mate), and an RN cdr who were selected ahead of an Army (RSigs iirc) lt col and MoD civilian candidate to fly on the shuttle in the late 80s. The missions were to have been in support of the Skynet programme. Sadly, although they commenced training, the Challenger disaster put paid to any hopes for a UK military space presence.

    The RMs currently have around half a dozen pilots flying in RAF/RN Harrier sqns. Pie Eater, what 'slow jets' are you referring to? There are no plans to expand the AAC beyond rotary and Defender.

  16. amanfromMars Silver badge

    re; amanfromMars

    "Did you take some time to also read some Ted Kascynski?"

    If that is a question of amanfromMars, Jon, ..No, he didn't and doesn't.*

    Raging against the Machine is for Losers in the Machine. If you Dare 42 Win Win with an IntelAIgent Design, the Machine will evolve into AI Win Win 2 System/Squadron Leader if IT is SMARTer than a Dumb Hick AWOL in the Wilderness.

    I choose to believe IT to be so.

    Is British Intelligence of the Dumb Hick Variety? Do you think IT would fare Better if Beta Enhanced Artificially?

    And there is no need to answer that obviously dumb rhetorical question.

    Hmmm. Is HRH Charlie boy, AI Space Cadet 2 ..... A CyberIntelAIgent Pioneer? Eccles & Bluebottle were apparently a formative part of his early Life.

    Do you think he is into Covert Cyber Ops..... Commander-in-Chief Missions in Virtual Controls? Shall we Boldly Go and Register the Question... with the Implication and Invitation Being that IT Receive a Right Royal Warrant under the Strictest of Sealed Orders. in Astute Circumspection?

    That would definitely make IT a Colossus of an AI Project and a Crown Jewel of a Magical Mystery Turing Prize........ and Well Worthy of a GAIan Mind with Astute Circumspection Controls.

    cc HMGCC

    PS. How SMART do you Think IT is whenever IT Plays as an Immaculate Goon 42 Fool the Lesser Fools Immaculately in an IntelAIgently Designed Concept which Leads with AIReality.

    Chocks Away, Chaps. Time to Scramble the Virtual Realm into a Life of ITs Own under Royal and Ancient Runes and Rule? Would that Render Absolute Control 42BTrue and Very Real?

    * Obviously a quick Google returned a few words which allowed the truthful reply which would at first appear to be at odds with itself as it makes reference to Theodore's anger and thus some reading of Ted.

    Actually, I would be much more likely to read Lech Kaczyński. He's more my cup of tea/into my thing. :-)

  17. Jon G

    It won't happen here

    Britain will never have a Government funded manned space program whilst we are still in thrall to the great god NHS. The public would much rather see its money wasted on bureaucracy in the NHS than spent on exciting science projects

  18. El (not Reg)

    ACM Torpy is on a suborbital ballistic trajectory...

    "I would like to see an RAF astronaut in the not-too-distant future"

    ACM Torpy isn't aiming high enough! Just one astronaut?! How about "We flaminwell need a fully-fledged British Commonwealth Space Program, ASAP!"

    Even just a couple of astronauts isn't going to cut it. We need to think of scale; start small whilst building slowly & carefully, but with designs to be bigger than the Constellation program & Ares rockets, more longer-lasting than Soyuz & a more cost-efficient payload to LEO than anybody. Astronauts are only one part of the jigsaw; what about our own rockets? What about a Commonwealth launch facility, independent of the US, Russia or Europe? What could the RAF bring to this? How about a formalised spaceflight training school. How about finding that Commonwealth version of Korolyov - an organiser, strategist & designer; one who should be being employed somewhere down the line, by military top brass. Speeding the way to doing this all, independently? Buy the rights to use the blueprints to Soyuz, or buy Soyuz technology directly from Russia, as China is effectively doing with the Shenzhou spacecraft. This'd help to get the people, on the ground, used to handling the technology & being knowledgeable of it. Where would be suitable as a launch site? Either the Northeast coast of Australia, or a floating launch platform, stationed in the Mid-Atlantic. Each would have hundreds of miles of sea to the east, & be near to the equator, i.e. the best launch sites. Furthermore, we already have the guts of a potential tracking station/mission control facility at Jodrell Bank.

    The key is to plan big, then to build it bulletproof. Remember Telford & Brunel, engineering & planning equals of Korolyov in every way - neither were military men - they were good enough strategists as to be disagreeable to getting shot at. ACM Torpy wants 'The Right Stuff', well, aviators are better than pilots - look to the guys who can do a horizontal landing on a carrier, if we still have any in the Commonwealth.

    n.b. After initial setup costs, this can be done on the tiniest fraction of the NHS budget; at <$50m (under £25 million) per launch, Soyuz demonstrates this. What was spent on the Dome, the new Wembley or the various new parliament buildings in Cardiff, London or Edinburgh? Splitting costs amongst Commonwealth members, who join in, would reduce an individual nation's cost even further (I'd bet on Australia & Canada being up for it, if Britain was). Now, tell me it can't be done!

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