‘Space sapling’ planting event, Woolsthorpe Manor

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Happy new year everyone!

Being here at Woolsthorpe Manor, I can only imagine what Sir Isaac Newton would have made of today’s event.

Celebrating a mission, named after his ‘Principia Mathematica’, which included taking pips from the apple tree in his garden to space and back!

Today, we’re lucky enough to have the man charged with that precious cargo – Tim Peake – here with us.

Four years ago, Tim, you were preparing for your spacewalk outside the International Space Station – a huge moment for our country.

But – for me – the legacy of your mission lies not just in space, but back here on earth.

In the millions of people who followed you on your journey. Who felt – even for a moment – like they were up there with you. And who – through your work – have been introduced to STEM skills which will change their lives.

Today’s announcement of the winners of the ‘Space Saplings’ competition will plant the legacy of ‘Principia’ across our country – to grow for generations to come.

And from connecting the world to the internet, to protecting the world from climate change – space is absolutely crucial to solving the ‘Grand Challenges’ which face our society.

Today – across the UK – we’re seeing the beginning of a second space age.

In Cornwall, we’re building a new spaceport which will launch satellites from rockets attached to a Boeing 747.

In the Scottish Highlands and Islands, we’re working to create the UK’s first vertical launch site.

In Glasgow, Clyde Space and Spire Global are building pint-sized satellites cutting the cost of getting into space.

At the Harwell Space Cluster near Oxford, Japanese firm Astroscale have set up their mission control centre – which will manage missions to clean up space debris.

In nearby Culham, Reaction Engines are developing the SABRE engine that could revolutionise hypersonic air travel and spaceflight.

While in Stevenage, Airbus built the Rosalind Franklin Mars Rover which will head to the red planet this year and look for signs of past life.

Our space sector is booming – all over the country.

And it’s my own personal ‘mission’ to see it grow, creating 30,000 more jobs over the next decade.

We’ve committed to setting up the UK’s first Space Command.

And we’re also setting up a new National Space Council. Making the final frontier one of our first priorities.

Space is also an area where international collaboration is so important. And – working with our European partners – we’re funding some amazing projects in the years ahead.

From a new space station orbiting the moon. To returning the first samples from Mars. And using satellites to beam broadband across the Earth.

But some of the most crucial projects are on climate change.

This is my department’s flagship priority – and we need to innovate, fast, to avoid the worst effects. Half of the measurements we need to understand climate change can only be taken from space. So it’s fitting that earth observation is the fastest growing part of the UK space sector.

The Copernicus programme is playing a crucial role – with satellites measuring CO2 and methane emissions – and even providing images to track deforestation.

The TRUTHS mission – proposed by the National Physical Laboratory – whose CEO Dr Peter Thompson is here today – will improve climate change forecasts. Allowing other satellites, such as Copernicus, to be recalibrated in space.

And just 2 weeks ago we announced a new centre involving the Universities of Edinburgh and Leeds.

Where 50 new PhD students will use satellite data to assess the impact of climate change.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As we plant our Space Sapling today, there has never been a better time for Britain’s space sector.

A British astronaut.

An inspiring industry – with opportunities across the UK.

A chance to save our planet.

Three great reasons to celebrate this sector.

Thank you.

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