Australia is heading to the Moon, with the Morrison Government reaching an agreement with NASA for an Australian made rover to be included in a future mission.
Leading Australian businesses and researchers will come together to develop the rover, backed by $50 million in funding from the Trailblazer program in the Government’s Moon to Mars initiative.
The semi-autonomous rover will collect lunar soil that contains oxides, and using separate equipment, NASA will aim to extract oxygen from the soil. This is a key step towards establishing a sustainable human presence on the Moon and supporting future missions to Mars.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia’s mission to the Moon would contribute to growing our economy in our COVID-19 recovery, and create more jobs for Australians.
“This is an incredible opportunity for Australia to succeed in the global space sector, and is central to our Government’s vision to secure more jobs and a larger share of the growing space economy,” the Prime Minister said.
“By 2030, we want to triple the size of our space sector – adding $12 billion to our economy and creating up to 20,000 new, high-skilled jobs – providing more opportunities for Australians and industries.
“Our Government has invested more than $700 million in the civil space sector since July 2018, supporting core industries including manufacturing, robotics, engineering, mining and resources.
“This mission to the Moon is just one exciting way that we can create opportunity and jobs for the future, and our Government will ensure Australians reap the benefits.”
Minister for Science and Technology Melissa Price said the milestone agreement would usher-in a new era for the Australian space sector.
“With our expertise in robotics technology, NASA wants to partner with us on this project to the Moon, creating our own lunar history,” Minister Price said.
“As well as putting Australia front and centre for scientific discoveries, our $50 million in support gives Australian businesses and researchers the opportunity to contribute to NASA’s mission to the Moon and beyond.
“It will build the Australian space sector’s capability and capacity and showcase Australia’s strengths to the world, as well as inspire a whole new generation of young people to enter careers in science, technology, engineering and maths.”
Head of the Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo said the mission would demonstrate Australian industry’s world leading skills and experience in remote operations, drawing from our expertise in the resources and mining sector.
“Australia is at the cutting-edge of robotics technology and systems for remote operations, which are going to be central to setting up a sustainable presence on the Moon and eventually supporting human exploration of Mars,” Mr Palermo said.
“This agreement will leverage our expertise in remote operations to grow our space sector here at home, while developments that come from preparing for space will make sure our resources sector keeps powering ahead too.”
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said: “This agreement will serve to strengthen the long-time relationship between the United States and Australia in areas related to space exploration – a relationship that goes back more than half a century to the days of the Apollo program.
“By working together with the Australian Space Agency and our partners around the world, NASA will uncover more discoveries and accomplish more research through the Artemis program.”
Under the agreement, NASA will fly the rover to the Moon as early as 2026, provided it meets a range of conditions during its development.
The Trailblazer program is expected to open later this year, with applications to be submitted in early 2022.