A job that's out of this world?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” If you ever answered 'astronaut', you probably didn't get a very encouraging reply. But a career in space, or at least space technology, is perhaps not quite as far out of reach for today's graduates. As reported in the Guardian recently, the 2010/2011 Jobfile handbook, published by VT Lifeskills, lists 'astronaut' as a possible career option for the first time. There's certainly plenty of competition: the European Space Agency recruited 6 astronauts last year, including British helicopter pilot Timothy Peake, from a field of 8,400. But while few people will see their careers literally blasting off into space, the space industry already supports over 68,000 technical, scientific, engineering and administrative jobs, and contributes over £6.5 billion to the UK economy. The government's space strategy aims to make sure that the sector, focused on satellite technology, continues to grow in size and influence. A new British Space Agency was launched earlier this year, bringing together the separate space budgets and programmes. "For the first time, we will have a body with a firm grip on the future," said the science minister, Lord Drayson. "Britain's space industry has defied the recession. It can grow to £40bn a year and create 100,000 jobs in 20 years. The government's commitments on space will help the sector go from strength to strength." For more information on careers in space, see the British Space Agency website. ukspaceagency.bis.gov.uk