Thursday 19 January 2023


 My blogpost last Thursday on Cornwall and the military-industrial complex seems to have had legs - 34 views in four days, and still counting - press here for a link. On Friday, my copy of a weekly local newspaper - The Cornishman - arrived through the door - and I turned to the centre pages to read the weekly wisdom of Old Mike. 

Back in 2017, I shared a train journey home from Truro with a gentleman who had been reporting on a demo I had been attending in support of Jeremy Corbyn and his socialist vision, a perspective, as Jeremy says, 'fit for the 21st century'. He was, as I discovered as we approached St Ives, none other than Old Mike. I liked him - I valued our conversation. I read him every week.

What was Old Mike saying last week? Interestingly, he was reflecting on the failed Newquay space rocket launch of the satellites, the subject of my blogpost last week. 

Preparing for the ill-fated launch 

For your interest - and as a relevant follow-on from last Thursday's post - here are the main points of his piece, filtered through my reading:

  • Newquay airport, the intended site of a spaceport, is in the area of three parishes, Trevarrian, Mawgan Porth, and Beacon Cove. Local protests last year make sense when you know the CEO of Virgin Galactic, Michael Colglazier, has in mind an annual return of one billion dollars per spaceport - to be achieved by up to 400 flights a year, including the $400,000 Virgin Galactic flights for those who have too, too much money. The relatively remote Newquay site means the risk of falling debris is less likely to make the headlines. 

Beware noise, falling debris, pollution from emissions, etc.

  • How good will it be for the UK? We have already launched a large number of satellites; they are part of the collection of 5,000 in orbit around our planet. That number is expected to increase significantly. Space junk may present problems in the future. The advocates for the spaceport claim it will be worth £3.8 billion to the UK economy. Well, they would, wouldn't they. 
  • How good will it be for Cornwall? As Old Mike says, 'Stand by for the usual patronising refrain of "putting Cornwall on the map" as if we've suddenly appeared'. The Spaceport company says it will create 150 jobs by 2025. Since their website makes it clear that most of the people employed will be 'astrophysicists', it seems unlikely that the Cornish Jobcentres will be jumping up and down in excitement.
  • As for the damaging carbon footprint, back in 2019 Cornwall Council announced that it would be creating a 20,000-acre 'forest' to offset the emissions. So where would that be in this county? And when will the saplings be planted? If the idea ever materialised, how tall would the trees be before the effects of the global extinction crisis washed them all away?

Check out Virgin's contribution below. 

  • Who gets the magic figure of £3.8 billion conjured up as the worth to 'the UK economy'? The Spaceport company is under the aegis of the Cornwall Local Enterprise Partnership Ltd, a hybrid private limited company, with four public-sector directors and up to 15 from the private-sector. How this will work in practice is unclear. The history of public-private ventures does not look good news from the public perspective. 
  • The project was funded with £12.1 million of our money via Cornwall Council (yes, this is personal; my monthly Council Tax bill is £158), £7.85 million from the UK Space Agency (yes, this is still personal; I still pay tax to the Government), and a mere £2.5 million from Virgin Orbit. As Old Mike waspishly comments: '... so Cornwall should logically receive 54% of the profits. Yeah, right.'

Astrophysicists - and moneymen?

  • He concludes his excellent piece thus:
The future of the space industry is quite terrifying, involving mass manufacturing in  microgravity, mining on other planets and even Elon Musk's disgusting idea to 'warm up' Mars with nuclear bombs, but at least Cornwall's on the map - and possibly in the crosshairs too.' 


Remember my blogpost from last week - Cornwall is part of the military industrial complex

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