Editorial: Is it really time for Morayvians to boldly go where none have gone before?

Sunday Supplement

Our detailed look back on the stories that we have been talking about in Moray…..

Time for Moray to boldly go….

A relatively quiet week has been enjoyed by all with sunshine all the way – broken in spectacular fashion on Saturday afternoon by lightening storms.

Right that’s the weather report out of the way – this weekend I’m going to try and generate a bit more enthusiasm for Moray as a home for a future spaceport.

Now, I can well understand (and can hear the groans as I write) that a lack of interest in this subject is based mainly on, well not to put too fine a point on it – we just don’t believe it.

As one who until fairly recently was very much in agreement with that sentiment I can understand it.

Every story on the subject it seemed was accompanied by what to me were fanciful ideas of regular Virgin Galactic tourist flights into deep space, with futuristic graphic images of what it might all look like.

Very much a child of the ‘Dan Dare’ era (ask Granddad to explain), I’d seen it all before with the reality of space travel perhaps not nearly as exciting as this fantasy image the mainstream media has fed us.

But then love them or hate them (and for most of us it is sadly the latter), politicians do sometime actually look into the future and see things that are, well, progressive and far reaching.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first – the Virgin Galactic link. Yes, Richard Branson has invested billions into his plans to carry passengers into space on 150-minute flights of fancy at a cost of around £120,000 a ticket.

Not the sort of thing your average Loon or Quine is going to splash out for a quick trip into the dark side – let’s face it, Lossie harbour filled with billionaire’s yachts is just not an image that many of us can buy into.

On the other hand there can hardly be a single soul in the country who has not at some point taken advantage of space technology. We are all using SatNav’s over old-fashioned maps, we watch television pictures that we now take for granted are being bounced off a piece of metal rotating in sync with our planet.

We even all fell for the con-trick that was fed to us back in 1969 about men walking on the moon!

But when science minister David Willets talks about our launching our own satellites into space rather than sending them half way around the world first, you have to start to think – why not?

When the bold Mr Willets said “We have worked out the regulatory regime we need to launch spaceships in Britain and assessed what kind of aviation checks will have to be imposed when we put craft into space. In the wake of that work we have now created a shortlist of locations for the first British spaceport”, then why should we doubt him?

This week Moray’s SNP politicians went to great pains to lift our mood and turn us into believers. Given that they are also working overtime on the independence referendum, you have to wonder how a Scottish Government would, alone, fund this project, but I’ll leave that to one side.

I lean towards agreeing with them though. Given that Mr Willets and his government colleagues are so determined to invest billions into sending something other than our national debt into orbit, perhaps we should be taking more seriously the massive financial gains it could bring to Moray were we to live up to our favourites tag for this honour?

Here is the reality – the UK space industry sector has grown by 7.2% in the last two years and is now worth around £11billion and employs 34,000 people. The projection is that will grow to £40billion and 100,000 employees by 2030.

Our own spaceport, against figures like that, is not fantasy, it is necessity. Time for us all in Moray to wake up and realise that nature has placed us in pole position to cash in on riches and prosperity beyond our wildest dreams.

Time for we Morayvians, then, to boldly go where none have gone before…..

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