Interplanetary exploration, asteroid mining and transforming science fiction into reality.
These are just some of the possibilities that come with the establishment of an Australian Space Agency, with $50 million in Federal Government funding to be committed to the program in the 2018 budget. For those in the field of space study, this week’s announcement was a monumental occasion which will allow Australia to join the ranks of global space agencies such as the American-based NASA and Germany’s DLR.
Astrophysicist/Cosmologist Dr Brad Tucker, a Research Fellow at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Mt Stromlo Observatory at Australian National University, said that Australia will finally be on a level playing field with some of the giants of space exploration.
“We have a big role in space technology and discovery. There has been a lot done at university institution level,” he told Dubbo Photo News this week.
Until now, without national funding, that role has been limited to tertiary-based study.
Dr Tucker said there’s a lot that hasn’t been possible without a national budget dedicated to space and he is thrilled with the announcement.
“It’s great to see that the Federal Government is taking a more active approach. Australia has some significant institutions dedicated to this – it will be great to give a more national focus to groups to do national scale projects.
“At the moment we host other space agencies but this will change, for Australia to be able to do new space astronomy and earth observations,” he explained.
Dr Tucker pointed out that the funding will improve communications within Australia and advance our capabilities in this arena.
“We are currently reliant on overseas partners for our space-related infrastructure. “We don’t ask other countries to build our roads. Why do we expect them to build satellites?”
Dr Tucker said the potential is enormous for space technology to improve life on earth and explore the possibilities of other planets.
“From space we will be able to figure out moisture levels in the soil, nitrogen content and CO2 emissions, crop rotation, using satellite technology for business transactions – a space program that’s improving everyday lives – making lives better as well as pushing our outer boundaries.
“With the same technology, we can explore opportunities. We are so outpacing what we can do at the moment.
“People are pushing out to go to other planets such as Mars. We live in an age where all these ideas that were science fiction are now practical and doable.
“In front of me now is a telescope dome that uses lasers to change the orbit of space junk.
“Another of our plans is to capture and mine an asteroid rich in metals – hundreds and thousands of tonnes of gold and platinum.”
Dr Tucker said this advancement in space is occurring at a rapid rate.
“It’s going to happen quicker than people think. It’s rapidly changing.
“Space technology is more advanced and satellites are cheaper than you think. You can build a satellite now for $2 million. Technology is becoming so much cheaper and efficient – satellites are now the size of a loaf of bread.
“It’s great that the Federal Government wants to lead the drive – Australia was the third country in the world to build and launch a satellite.”
Dr Brad Tucker is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Australian National University. He is currently working on projects to discover the true nature of dark energy, the mysterious substance causing the accelerating expansion of the Universe. He’s also one of the leads of the Kepler Extra-Galactic Survey to understand why and how stars blow up and is leading a project to build a network of ultraviolet telescopes in the upper atmosphere, a search to find Planet 9 – a hypothetical new planet on the edges of our Solar System. Dr Tucker and his colleague Professor Brian Schmidt were in Dubbo last night to present ‘The Universe and the future of Space’ at Dubbo Regional Theatre. Professor Schmidt shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for his studies into the expansion of the universe. Dr Tucker said Dubbo’s location between Siding Springs and Parkes puts the city at the centre of future space exploration.