STAR centre may be leading light in next space race

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A space centre in Keighley could play a role in training the UK's next astronaut.

The Government is to hold a formal review into whether Britain should take part in the international exploration of space.

It has been prompted by growing fears that the UK might lose out in the next wave of space travel as technology advances.

Under the new Civil Space strategy - set to run until 2012 - an international space facility will be created at Harwell, Oxfordshire, to focus on climate change and robotic space exploration.

But local schoolchildren have been enjoying out-of-this-world experiences for several years - thanks to Park Lane College Keighley's STAR (Science, Technology and Aeronautics Regional) Centre.

It uses space to encourage young learners to embrace science-related subjects. Budding astronauts can take on a live mission control simulation, drive a planetary rover, explore a mock planet surface or conduct experiments.

Senior lecturer Paul Neaves said he hoped the centre would play a part in inspiring generations to travel to infinity and beyond.

"We are here to encourage young people to consider careers in science and science-related fields," said Mr Neaves. This could include astronomy and in the future space travel.

"Space tourism is developing very quickly. Hopefully, we can plant ideas in young people which will develop in science, technology and space-related fields in the future."

The Government plans to set up a National Space Technology Programme to support the development of new, innovative technologies and services.

Science Minister Ian Pearson said the international community was "on the cusp of a wave of new space exploration" and Britain needed to take full advantage.

More than 4,000 people have taken part in STAR Centre activities since it opened two years ago.

Former NASA space centre director George Abbey and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Volkov and Alexander Martynov are among three of the stars of the space world to have visited.

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