Australia could seize unique lunar opportunity

Australia could seize unique lunar opportunity

Louis Dillon

A year on from the founding of the Australian Space Agency and there are still no actual Australian missions in space, but there could be, said Professor Andrew Dempster.

And that could involve using Australian mining technology for recovering water on the moon.

Professor Dempster, director of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) at University of NSW, said plenty of others were interested in returning to the moon.

NASA plans to land astronauts on the moon in 2024. Last month, India launched its Chandrayaan-2 mission, which will land a probe in September. China recently landed a probe on the moon, while Israel came close with its Beresheet lander, which malfunctioned and crashed into the moon surface.

Professor Dempster said there was no doubt the moon has once more captured the world’s interest and one reason was that a presence on the moon was essential to any future mission to Mars.

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Another reason was the presence of water on the moon, and the usefulness of water for all sorts of reasons in space.

“Since January, we have been working on the Wilde project, where we have re-focused our space resources research towards the permanently shadowed craters at the moon’s poles, where water is highly likely to occur in acceptable concentrations,” he said in an article on The Conversation.

 

“We are also looking to reduce the risk of investing in a water extraction venture, including the design of orbiter and lander missions.”

Professor Dempster said Australia had a strong mining industry and much mining innovation was created in Australia.

He said space and mining had a lot in common – both involve complex engineering systems, work in hostile environments, with human control increasingly handed over to autonomous robotics.

“Exploiting resources in space represents a genuine opportunity for Australia to establish a niche around which a sustainable space industry can be built,” Professor Dempster said

“So now is a perfect time for Australia to consider a new moon mission. The industry is growing rapidly and a flagship mission would give it something around which to build.

“Our special expertise in resource extraction offers a unique opportunity, which others have only just started to pursue. And a community of companies and researchers has been gathered for the task.”

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