The Australian Space Agency has signed a statement of intent to join the United States’ mission to return to the Moon and push beyond to Mars.
At a signing ceremony on Saturday, September 21, NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard and the Head of the Australian Space Agency Dr. Megan Clark signed a joint statement of intent. The statement outlines potential contributions by Australia in areas of mutual interest including robotics, automation and remote asset management.
“We are honored by today’s statement and the commitment of our friends from Australia to support us in our mission to return to the Moon by 2024 with the Artemis program,” said Morhard. “The strong relationship between NASA and the Australian Space Agency affirms NASA’s commitment to establish sustainable exploration with our commercial and international partners by 2028.”
Despite the Australian Space Agency being relatively new, the country’s involvement in the exploration of space is not. Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has had a formal agreement with NASA for the use of the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex since 1960. This facility and Data Relay facilities in Alice Springs and Dongara are critical components of NASA’s Deep Space Network.
As part of Australia’s partnership with NASA, the government has pledged to invest $100 million into local businesses and new technologies. It is hoped that the investment will support NASA’s efforts and serve as a catalyst for the country’s space industry with an eye on a bigger share of the US350 billion global space market.
“We’re backing Australian businesses to the moon, and even Mars, and back,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. “There is [an] enormous opportunity for Australia’s space sector which is why we want to triple its size to $12 billion to create around 20,000 extra jobs by 2030.”
NASA hopes to send the next man and the first woman to the surface of the Moon by 2024. The agency then hopes to move past the achievements of the Apollo program and establish a sustainable presence in lunar orbit and on the surface of the Moon by 2028.