Topics: NASA Moon to Mars program, space industry
David Penberthy: NASA has a stated goal of returning to the moon by 2024, and over the weekend, the suggestion Australia could help them get there. The Australian Space Agency, headquartered right here in Adelaide, has signed a statement of intent with the people of NASA.
The Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews is on the line. Minister, good morning. So what is the significance of this agreement?
Karen Andrews: Well good morning, and this is a very significant step forward for Australia’s space industry. So it’s a $150 million fund that will be set up to support NASA’s mission to return to the moon and then on to Mars. So Australia’s had such a long history of working with NASA and being part of the space industry, but quite frankly, since we established the Australian Space Agency just over twelve months ago, we’ve been seriously kicking goals. And of course, South Australia has been in there from day one with us, with all the work that’s happening at Lot 14, with establishing Mission Control, headquartering the Space Agency at Lot 14. So yeah, it’s a great partnership now, not only between NASA and the Australian Space Agency, but also bringing in all our states and territories.
David Penberthy: I know it’s early days, and it’s a very sort of grand and almost overwhelming concept, the idea of going to Mars, Minister, but is it possible yet to get any sort of bead in a tangible sense of what this actually means on the ground for South Australians who are looking for work or are already employed in another field that could lend itself to transferring across to space? Because, you know, I don’t know if it’s six guys in a room at Lot 14 at the moment or if it’s hundreds of people. What’s it actually going to look like long term? Is there a number indeed?
Karen Andrews: Well the big figure number is what the Australian space industry is actually worth. So it’s currently worth about $4 billion and employs 10,000 people. So what our strategy will do is triple the size of that to $12 billion and an additional 20,000 people. So yes, there will be people who are located at the Space Agency in Adelaide, and there will be people working at Mission Control and at the Space Discovery Centre, so that’s all happening around Lot 14. But what we’re more focused on is what these investments will do to drive Australian industry.
So you’ve got Myriota, based in South Australia. There’s a lot of work that’s being done with satellites, and of course importantly from satellites, the images that come back and the information that comes back from satellites helps our farmers to manage their land, so their crops and their sensors, predicting when the drought’s going to come through. Now what we need to do is harness the great work that’s being done at universities, connect that with industry to make sure that we’re building industry. So it could be more satellites, it could be developing the technology that supports the growth of nanosatellites. It could be robotics, it could be automation, it could be in medical health. So for example, the Apollo mission actually delivered for us kidney dialysis, which is quite amazing. We want to connect our best and brightest researchers to support the growth of Australian industry.
David Penberthy: Good stuff. Karen Andrews, the Minister for Science and Technology. Thank you for joining us this morning.