In the Guardian Weekend supplement last week, Jon Ronson spent some time exploring Richard Branson's plans to take paying customers into orbit. In the course of his research, Ronson met up with Trevor Beattie, who mused about what this might mean for all of us:
I am at a table towards the back of the hangar, listening to the speeches with future astronaut Trevor Beattie. He's the working-class Birmingham boy who made his millions as an ad man – famous for Wonderbra's Hello Boys posters, and French Connection's FCUK campaign, as well as the 2001 and 2005 New Labour election campaigns for his friend Peter Mandelson.
"Some say Nasa sent the wrong people into space," Trevor tells me quietly. "Nasa sent scientists and engineers. When they came back, they either got God or became poets. So what happens this time, when you send creative people? Do we come back as engineers and scientists? What will it do to the other side of our brains?"
It seemed a provocative question, so we asked Open University professor John Zarnecki - a man who knows a thing or two about space, and has met an astonishing proportion of the people who have been there - for his response. It's fair to say Trevor Beattie might find himself being blasted into orbit slightly sooner than Richard Branson could manage:
What arrant (utter, complete) arrogance to suggest that scientists and engineers are not “creative” – which is the implication of the statement “…..what happens this time when you send creative people?”.
The scientists and engineers who conceive and design, for example, the Large Hadron Collider, the Mars Curiosity Rover, the Rosetta mission to land on a Comet, the concept of Dark Matter in the Universe, the search for Exoplanets, to name only a few, are amongst the most creative people on the Earth today.
Almost in the same breath, to describe those who develop an advertising campaign for an item of lingerie as “creative” is a travesty of usage of the English language. Let’s get our priorities right! Maybe if so-called “creative" get a few minutes exposure to the space environment, it may help to educate them as to what is really important – namely the Universe beyond their little worlds!