AS the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of that giant leap for mankind on Sunday, there were some cynics who questioned its significance.
What strides have we made since? Where are the flying cars? Space was the final frontier and in 50 years what news have we had from the “front”?
Well, plenty actually.
The space sector in Australia is worth about $3.9 billion and employs 10,000 people. And last year, our Government announced the establishment of the Australian Space Agency, with its headquarters in Adelaide, which aims to grow the sector to $12 billion and create an extra 20,000 new jobs by 2030. And it’s not just about jobs. It also underpins our progress by improving the way we live.
Most Australians rarely pause to consider the profound benefits that space technologies and services have on their lives. They touch virtually every sector of the Australian economy. Australian farmers use space capabilities to monitor the health of their crops; marine pilots guide cruise liners; emergency workers track the progress of bushfires; and scientists study the effects and impact of droughts. Every day we literally find our way in the world via a GPS app or an “old fashioned” SatNav.
So much of the way we live today has evolved from that one step that symbolised the progress of humankind. It’s incredible to think that just 70 years before the moon landing most people in the world, if they were lucky enough to be alighting from advanced transportation, were jumping from a steam train or stepping tentatively from a horse-drawn sulky.
During the moon landing in 1969 more than one fifth of the world’s population collectively held their breath and, in a moment of unprecedented international unity, watched those first steps together via a technology that had gone from being unheard of to becoming widespread in just a few decades – the television.
The extraordinary images came to the world via Australia; first from the tracking station at Honeysuckle Creek in the ACT and then via the Parkes Radio Telescope.
But that step, with the world watching in awe, was to capture imaginations like no other. As a young girl, it sparked in me a love of science that led me to a profession in engineering before entering politics.
By backing those involved in space technology and discovery, the Federal Government’s aim is to inspire the next generations to study science and technology subjects – to enquire, to ask questions, to build, to dream.
By engaging the great minds of tomorrow we can advance human knowledge and add further strides to the remarkable human trajectory represented in that one small step 50 years ago. And, who knows, in 50 years’ time we might even get those flying cars.