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In Conversation With Steve Allen 6am - 7am
20 October 2018, 12:24
A rocket scientist warns that Brexit is a symbol of "critical" collaborations "breaking apart".
Mark McCaughrean of the European Space Agency says that "no one country can build these missions" on its own and that "critical" collaborations are being broken up by Brexit.
The rocket scientist was speaking after European and Japanese space agencies launch their first mission to Mercury with British-built spacecraft BepiColombo.
But when Andrew asked whether it would be possible to build its own navigational system if kicked out of the Galileo project, he said it would be "ironic" given the UK built most of it.
"The UK has the capacity, and that's one of the ironic things," he said.
"It's built most of the satellites for the current Galileo system as part of a bigger consortium around Europe, so of course it has the capacity, but the real question is do you really want to spend money rebuilding a capability that you have access to.
"You don't get kicked out, you're kicking yourself out."
BepiColombo will reach the planet Mercury after seven years of travelling through space.
Mr McCaughrean said that the rocket could reach the target planet in three months if it was to use the gravitational pull of the sun, however the craft would be going too fast to be able to enter a steady orbit.
He also explained how the scientific instruments, that work at room temperature, will work as the spacecraft approaches the sun.
The spacecraft has a number of 'flybys' scheduled as it travels through space, using the gravitational pull of other planets to keep it at a steady speed which will allow it to enter a steady orbit.
The first flyby will be in April 2020, when it passes by Earth. It then swings by Venus twice, before making six flybys around Mercury between October 2021 and January 2025 before finally arriving in December that year.