On 24 September 2017, the Turnbull Government announced the establishment of a national space agency to take advantage of the exciting opportunities in the modern day space race.

So what good does a space agency do – or what uses could it have?

 

Why are we exploring space?

Carrying astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr,. the Lunar Module (LM) “Eagle” was the first crewed vehicle to land on the Moon. Credit: NASA.

Why should we keep exploring? Humans have been to the moon and robots have been to Mars, which is pretty incredible when you think about it. However, to many of us, the benefit of space exploration seems to be overestimated. Or is it?

The truth is, exploration always leads to discovery, and as humans we desire to explore.  All throughout human history, we have been navigating the seas, discovering new lands, and finally, trying to conquer the skies. Then we took the next logical step – venturing into outer space. We could very well be at the forefront of becoming a spacefaring race.

 

NASA leads the way  

As one of the oldest pioneers or space exploration, the U.S. is already preparing for a new challenge. NASA, one of the leading organisations of space exploration in the world, is getting ready to launch the Orion spacecraft on its new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS). The Orion spacecraft and the SLS pairing is intended to carry humans beyond Earth’s orbit for potential human exploration of asteroids and Mars.

For NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden the motivation is simple: “It might just help us unravel the age-old mystery about whether life exists beyond Earth.”

“Every time America has gone to the frontier, we’ve brought back more than we could ever imagine,” Bolden said. “As NASA turns dreams into realities, and makes science fiction into fact, it gives America reason to hope our future will be forever brighter than our past.”

Why wouldn’t we want to make Australia’s future brighter than ever?

 

The benefits of space exploring

Despite Stephen Hawking warning us of the potential consequences of reaching out to aliens (which sound rational to us!), we can still do many things even just around our planet’s orbit. The knowledge that engineers and scientists learn from working towards space exploration can be applied to advance technologies in our daily lives back here on Earth.

NASA even has a whole publication called Spinoff dedicated to the technologies they have made that benefit us! Such technologies include the G-suits used to help astronauts withstand extreme acceleration have been used to save women who experience a deadly complication during childbirth. Another example is the lightweight solar arrays, which were originally used on satellites and had been used to recharge batteries for many years. And experiments performed in zero gravity on the International Space Station have contributed to the development of new drugs.

The solar arrays that were only used on satellites are now using everywhere on Earth to provide clean, sustainable solar energy. Credit: Pexels.

Space technology can also help improve sovereign security. For instance, the Synthetic aperture radar satellite system provides high-resolution images anytime, in any type of weather, to help manage Australian landmass, oceans and local atmosphere. In fact, the data Australians use every day is now provided by international corporations – and Australians pays billions of dollars for this.  By developing our capability to launch satellites, we can take more control of our own information and our economy could benefit as well.

According to the SIAA White Paper that was published on 21 March 2017, there are up to 11,500 employees in Australia’s space industry. However, this number would increase after the establishment of a national space agency. The developing industry will not only require engineers and technicians, it will also need professionals from other areas such as chemists for rocket fuels and lawyers for legal advice. Jobs will be created and thousands of Australians will be needed for its workforce.

 

We have many advantages

As early as the 1950s, Australia was actively involved in the space industry with other space players. And while space capability has slowed down for us in the last half century, Australia still consistently plays a critical role in many other countries’ space programs.

For instance, NASA has a deep space tracking facility at Tidbinbilla in the ACT; and the European Space Agency has one in New Norcia, WA. Meanwhile, about 40 space missions are using Australian soil for experiments and data transferring.

‘Listening for Cassini’. New Norcia Station in West Australia can help gather crucial science data that sent from satellites flying in the solar system. Credit: Flickr.

Geographically speaking, the Northern Territory is located quite close to the Equator, which makes it ideal for rocket launching. The NT government also has shown its interest in developing a space industry.

On 24th of this September, Government announced that the Australian space agency will create thousands of new jobs and build a $420 billion aeronautical industry. And details were just released at the 68th International Astronautical Congress, the world’s largest space conference, that was recently held in Adelaide.

We are ready for our Space Agency.

 

Written by: Yuxi Sophia Ren and Nastasia Bartlett
SCIE90012 project interns, University of Melbourne


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