SPACE CONFERENCE
SPACE CONFERENCE

How Australia is winning the space race

FROM growing crops on Mars to keeping astronauts healthy, Australia is talking to space agencies around the world about future space adventures in the decades to come.

Fifty years after Apollo 11 landed on the moon - when Australia helped NASA in that historic mission - Agency deputy head Anthony Murfett says they are now in discussions about the next 50 years.

Fleet Space CEO Flavia Tata Nardini is helping to fund the launch of 10 nano-satellites.
Fleet Space CEO Flavia Tata Nardini is helping to fund the launch of 10 nano-satellites.

Those decades could see Australia helping to grow crops on Mars to feed human Martians; developing better ways to water on spacecrafts; keeping astronauts healthy in space; and using technology developed in mining to harvest resources from asteroids and planets.

Australia's experience with extreme drought, barren deserts, and the challenging terrain in Antarctica means we will have the experience for space jobs both out there and down here on Earth.

The Agency's mission is to smooth the way for private companies to step up, to triple the space industry to $12 billion a year and create 20,000 jobs.

Mr Murfett said the Agency, which has just turned one, has already signed a range of agreements with overseas agencies and companies and is "talking to the United States to explore where to work together for the next 50 years".

Space Minister Karen Andrews says in the shorter term, Australian companies are building small satellites, developing rocket launch sites, and contemplating space tourism.

"Establishing a Space Agency has given Australia international space credibility," she said.

Anthony Murfett, the deputy head of the Australian Space Agency. Picture: Chris Russell
Anthony Murfett, the deputy head of the Australian Space Agency. Picture: Chris Russell

Using satellites to improve GPS accuracy will make autonomous vehicles a more common reality, allow farmers to monitor livestock, and let people track water in drought-affected areas and in the Murray-Darling Basin, she said.

"That's where the jobs will be. We are going to need tens of thousands of data scientists over the coming ten to 12 years.

"They'll work with the information from our satellites."

More than 740 space-related organisations are now listed on the Space Industry Association of Australia's database.

The Australian Space Agency is based in Adelaide, where a Mission Control Centre, Space Discovery Centre and satellite research centre will also be.

However, all states and territories have roles in the growing industry.

Richard Price, the head of both Defence SA and the SA Space Industry Centre, said the industry was optimistic about the future. He pointed to businesses making nanosatellites, such as Fleet Space and Inovor Technologies, and plans by Southern Launch to build a rocket launch pad on the Eyre Peninsula.

NASA has already signed a deal with Equatorial Launch Australia to send rockets up from the Arnhem Space Centre.

In a briefing with the Agency and the CSIRO, NASA spokesman Badri Younes described the Agency's strong relationship with Australia, and said the US would rely on partners including in Australia to establish a permanent presence in space.



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