Australia has a long and proud history in space. We started to work with the US in 1957 with the establishment of a NASA radio tracking facility in Woomera, and were one of the earliest nations to launch its own satellite in 1967.
In 1969, it was CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope and Australian teams at NASA’s Honeysuckle Creek tracking station that transmitted the famous first moon steps of Neil Armstrong worldwide.
Half a century on, Adelaide is the ideal base from which the Australian Space Agency can transform and grow a truly national space industry that lifts the broader economy and improves the lives of all Australians. Our national reach is supported by investments across the nation, both from the Australian government as well as the jurisdictions.
The Australian Space Agency has achieved tremendous momentum over the last 18 months. In addition to supporting the transformation of our space industry into new supply chains, more international agreements are being signed to open doors for Australian industry to tap into global markets. Our most recent agreements are with the likes of NASA, Germany and the European Space Agency.
In an Australian-first, we’re working with NASA on its inspiring plan to go forward to the moon and on to Mars. As part of this, the Australian government is investing $150 million in our own Moon to Mars initiative to fuel the growth of Australian businesses – here in Australia – so they can thrive in international supply chains.
The program will position Australia’s space industry, research institutions and broader industry to work alongside many nations on a global effort, and open opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable to us.
The Moon to Mars initiative is Australian focused, involving three integrated elements with funding starting in 2020-21.
The agency has been travelling around the country in February to hear from you on how to best design the Moon to Mars initiative so it genuinely develops our national industry and inspires the public.
Opening later this year, the Supply Chain program will target projects and activities to build capability in Australia’s space industry and support Australian industry to deliver products and services to international US space supply chains.
The Demonstrator program will open by early 2021.
This program will focus on demonstrator and pilot projects showcasing Australia’s strengths to the world by providing a pathway for industry to develop and launch products that will create new capability, enabling new business ventures, revenue streams or markets.
The centrepiece of the Moon to Mars initiative, the Trailblazer program, will back a project that inspires the nation. We envisage this project will support NASA’s activities related to their return to the moon and on to Mars, noting the agency will do another round of public consultation towards the end of year to seek feedback on the design of this third element.
As Australian industry transforms, the time is right for us to leverage our competitive advantages to secure a bigger part of the space race, including our unique location, robotics, sensors and automation technology, our capabilities in advanced communications and new areas like agriculture.
Importantly, the agency will continue leading the gold standard in setting the pathway for the highest level of responsible behaviour in space-related activities for the nation, on Earth and in space without stifling innovation.
This includes launch and returns, and considering future growth opportunities like space tourism.
It is shaping up to be an exciting year with the agency running at full speed. We are well on our way to providing the right environment to reach our target to triple the size of the space sector and create another 20,000 jobs by 2030.
I encourage those of you interested in the Moon to Mars initiative to provide a submission on the proposed design of the program on the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources’ Consultation Hub by Friday, 6 March: https://consult.industry.gov.au/space/m2m/.
Anthony Murfett is deputy head of the Australian Space Agency.
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