Ukip candidate's election promises are out of this world
A Ukip candidate has told voters he would push for asteroid belt mining and a spaceship capable of interstellar travel if elected.
Aidan Powlesland, who is standing in South Suffolk, suggested it would be "health and safety madness" to send unmanned probes to nearby stars before sending humans to explore – similar to the risky voyages of discovery of the late 15th century.
He wants the British government to offer £1.23 billion of prizes to fund four space technology competitions.
These include £1 billion for a company that "profitably mines the asteroid belt for water and/or platinum" by 2026 and £100 million to design an "interstellar colony ship".
A further £90m would be made available to design a "prototype for an unmanned interstellar probe" and £40m to design and potentially build a "prototype for an interstellar communication diasporanet" – a communications network.
Mr Powlesland said taxpayers' cash would be offered in exchange for shares in the chosen companies, meaning the "government could make a profit".
He has expanded upon the ideas in a near-3000-word blog, under the heading 'The Starry Firmament'.
Mr Powlesland cited existing space technology proposals for the basis of his ideas.
On the prospect of an interstellar colony ship, Mr Powlesland said "fending off cosmic rays" would be among the problems which would need overcoming.
He also wrote: "In any case, the purpose of the competition would be to produce a design that was viable.
"When ships embarked upon voyages of discovery in the late 15th century the crew did not know what, upon arrival, they would find.
"They sailed literally into the unknown and in the process often died for their pains.
"I think a slow and cautious dispatch of unmanned probes to nearby stars before risking any human exploration or colonisation is guilty of the charge of health and safety madness.
"Interstellar colonization should not be postponed by 250 years while unmanned missions map the sphere within, say, ten lights years of Earth."
On asteroid mining, Mr Powlesland said a Singaporean consultancy firm assessed that it would begin as soon as 2025 and noted the Asteroid Mining Corporation was established in the UK last year.
He wrote: "With asteroids containing substantially more platinum than the Earth's entire estimated reserves the projected return on a mining for platinum operation could be taken, after adjusting for price falls if the market were flooded with a 50% increase in supply, to be circa £35 billion (amortised over 10 years).
"The figures justify a considerable investment in this opportunity even if it did prove, as enhanced supply depressed prices, to be somewhat short-term.
"It is for the reason that it might prove short-term that it would be prudent to mine for water too.
"Water would primarily be useful as a long-term fuel source for spaceships."
He added such water could also help China if it succeeded in establishing a manned moon base by 2040 or if the European Union is able to establish "its moon village by 2030, as it wishes to".
South Suffolk was held by the Conservatives at the 2015 general election with a majority of more than 17,500 over Labour. Ukip finished third.