To infinity and beyond – the past and future of space technology

The panel of experts showed the audience what the past, present and future of space technology is

What better way to celebrate and reflect on 50 years of the technology that took us to the moon than to look forward to the innovations of the next 50? As part of the celebrations (and collaborations) of Moon Week, our Director, Professor Anna Moore, presented and took part in a panel about Space Technology held in the new Kambri precinct at ANU. The panel consisted of Professor Moore, Mr Anthony Murfett of the Australian Space Agency, Dr Sarah Pearce of CSIRO and Dr Trevor Dhu of GeoScience Australia.

The afternoon began with Mr Murfett enchanting the audience with notions of Space Tourism and the sheer revenue of the Australian Space Agency (ASA) which is currently at 3.9B and projected to reach 12B by 2030 and provide 12,000 jobs. Furthermore, he discussed bringing Australia to the global space stage;

Space is now, not tomorrow. When we show international organisations what we do, it shows exactly what we could do on the moon or beyond

Mr Murfett is referring to extensive projects across Australia involving satellites, GPS and space innovations that will almost certainly be recreated in our galaxy in the near future.

This led well into Professor Moore’s presentation, pivoted around the interdisciplinary nature of ANU InSpace and how this complements the work of ASA. She spun the tale of the humble beginnings of ANU InSpace, which started with her convincing ANU that it was about time that we open our own front door. In a short 6 months, ANU InSpace has come from a front door to becoming the front of the game, becoming a space power in the world of US and Russian superpowers and most importantly;

Making Australia the hub of communication for the solar system, not just the world.”

As if that isn’t enough to get Australians of all ages and backgrounds excited about the role of Australia in the future of space, Dr Sarah Pearce followed up by showing the projects currently happening in Australia. For example, the deployment of 130,000 “Dalek antennae” in 60km of Western Australian desert that will be able to essentially reverse time and tell us what happened right after the big bang. If you’d told someone that 50 years ago, or even 10 – it’s doubtful that they’d believe it…especially coming from home soil. Dr Pearce also made sure to highlight the role that Australia (in particular the Parkes and Honeysuckle satellites) in the moon landing, reminding everyone that the footage of Neil Armstrong stepping off the ladder and on the moon came through Australia first.

Finally, Dr Trevor Dhu brought everyone back to Earth. Who would have thought that there was a link between space and cows? He described how Geoscience Australia is using satellite imagery to help farmers in Australia track, fence and feed their cattle – in an economy fluctuating between droughts and floods; this is crucial. Most importantly, his message was that space technology isn’t just for space;

We are using space in Australia to change our lives every day.”

The afternoon ended with an open panel for the experts, with the overarching message being as clear and bright as the full moon on a cloudless night. Australia, as a scientific nation, has become a clear contender for the lead in space technology and has been doing so since the fateful day Apollo 11 touched down on another planet. Seeing what we have achieved in 50 years means the future of Australia and space travel is endless, not even the sky is the limit.

To finish, Professor Moore made a profound point: London and New York did not become global hubs because people wanted to live there – they became international centres because that’s where the global economic framework was developed from scratch. In the same vein, Australia is developing the legal framework for new space technology with the support of the global leaders in the field like NASA.

It seems that for Australia, space technology is truly heading to infinity and beyond – and our experts at ANU InSpace are leading the way.