Tim Peake says investment in R&D allows the UK to reap rewards

Tim Peake calls for more investment in science as ESA confirms the British astronaut will return to the International Space Station by 2024

  • Major Tim Peake first visited the International Space Station in December 2015 
  • His astronaut class from 2009 will all return to the ISS before 2024 ESA says 
  • He says investing in science helps countries reap future technology rewards 
  • The UK has committed £374million per year to the ESA budget over five years
  • ESA has been given £12.3billion by member states for a range of new projects 

British astronaut Tim Peake – who will be returning to the International Space Station within five years – says more should be invested in science if the UK wants to ‘reap the rewards of future technologies’ and remain competitive.

He said the government was starting to recognise how important it is to invest in science as well as research and development but a lot more could be done.

Major Peake was the first UK government funded astronaut to spend time on the International Space Station and will be returning to the ISS by 2024. 

The UK has committed to contribute £374million per year over five years to the European Space Agency’s £12.3billion budget which includes plans to send Major Peake and other astronauts from the class of 2009 back to the ISS by 2024. 

Astronaut Major Tim Peake has said investment in R&D allows the UK to reap rewards. He will return to the ISS by 2024 according to ESA

He said the benefits of science as well as R&D investment are seen in education, industry and business.

“I think that slowly the governments are realising what our future is – whether it’s around autonomous vehicles, whether it’s around quantum computing, artificial intelligence, potential future energy sources such as nuclear fusion.

‘If we don’t invest in R&D then we’re not going to reap the rewards of what potential that has to offer us in the future’, he said.

Major Peake first announced he would return to the ISS in 2017 when the Soyuz capsule that took him to the station was at the Science Museum in London.

At the time he said: ‘It is only natural to want to return. The one thing you miss is the view of planet Earth, of course. It is the most spectacular thing you can possibly see.’

Major Peake became Britain’s first official astronaut in December 2015 when he spent six months on board the ISS.

UK investment in ESA secures its involvement in building the Lunar Gateway – a new space station orbiting the moon, returning the first samples from Mars, and removing space junk to prevent collisions in space.

Other initiatives invested in are new satellites to help better understand climate change, research in space technology that will deliver high-speed mobile technology such as 5G and an early warning system for solar storms.

“Actually, in terms of space industry, we’ve gone from strength to strength and are hoping to continue to do so’, Major Peake said.

“So, it is becoming more of a focus, and also the other point on this is things such as climate and technology are also coming to the forefront more than ever before.’  

Tim Peake made his first spacewalk on the 15th of January 2016. He says the thing he misses most about the ISS is the view of Earth from space

Major Peake was speaking as he revealed his top science and education institutions in the UK to celebrate the National Lottery’s 25th birthday. 

He said lottery funding enabled children to visit science institutions free of charge, grow an interest in the subject and potentially be inspired to go on and work in research an development to help create the next generation of technologies. 

Some of the projects across the UK that have received lottery funding in the past 25 years include the Science Museum in London, The Odyssey Trust Science & Discovery Centre in Belfast, and the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre in Manchester.

“I think that you can’t under-estimate the impact of what this funding allows these types of projects to do, and how the local economies benefit from it, and also the people go visit them’, said Major Peake.

Major Tim Peake said of investment in science: “Actually, in terms of space industry, we’ve gone from strength to strength and are hoping to continue to do so’

National Lottery players have raised more than £596million for 700 science-related projects over the last 25 years, with more than £310million going to science museums across the UK.


  • The Science Museum (London)
  • Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre (Manchester) 
  • Eden Project (Cornwall) 
  • Glasgow Science Centre (Glasgow)  
  • University Museum of Zoology (Cambridge) 
  • Royal Navy Submarine Museum (Portsmouth) 
  • Stargazing with Revitalising (Redesdale) 
  • W5 Science and Discovery Centre (Belfast) 
  • Oxford University Museum of Natural History (Oxford) 
  • National Museum (Cardiff)

Some of the projects across the UK that have received lottery funding in the past 25 years include institutions such as the Science Museum in London, The Odyssey Trust Science & Discovery Centre in Belfast, and the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre in Manchester.

“Jodrell Bank is particularly special to me, since the inspiration for my career path was born by simply looking up to the stars and being intensely curious about what the universe was all about’, Major Peake said.

‘Jodrell gives us that innate connection to our origins and how we came to be here.’

Andrea Leadsom, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary, said the UK investment in ESA would involve improving communication and connectivity as well as cementing the UK position as an innovation superpower.

‘We are delighted to be making this investment in today. From improving communication and connectivity, to helping us monitor the impact of climate change and protect our power grid’, she said.

‘Our membership of this international organisation will further our position as a space, innovation and climate superpower.’ 


The International Space Station (ISS) is a $100 billion (£80 billion) science and engineering laboratory that orbits 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

It has been permanently staffed by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts since November 2000. 

Research conducted aboard the ISS often requires one or more of the unusual conditions present in low Earth orbit, such as low-gravity or oxygen.

ISS studies have investigated human research, space medicine, life sciences, physical sciences, astronomy and meteorology.

The US space agency, Nasa, spends about $3 billion (£2.4 billion) a year on the space station program, a level of funding that is endorsed by the Trump administration and Congress.

A U.S. House of Representatives committee that oversees Nasa has begun looking at whether to extend the program beyond 2024.

Alternatively the money could be used to speed up planned human space initiatives to the moon and Mars.



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