NASA Official Says Australia’s Fledgling Space Agency Needs More Funding

NASA Official Says Australia’s Fledgling Space Agency Needs More Funding
A photo of Mars taken on March 10, 1997. (Nasa/Getty Images)

A senior official with NASA’s space communications program has called on the government and industry to rally behind Australia’s space agency.

Australia’s fledgling space agency needs far more resources to grow and thrive, according to a top NASA official.

Badri Younes, a senior official with NASA’s space communications program, met on July 2 with Australian Space Agency boss Megan Clark in Canberra.

The two organisations discussed ramping up collaboration, building on NASA’s long-standing relationship with Australian science body CSIRO.

“We will be pursuing some meetings in the future to identify possible options where we can collaborate on technology,” Younes told reporters on July 3.

Australia’s year-old Adelaide-based space agency needs “the support of everyone” to be successful.

“It’s going to take the commitment of the Australian government, the Australian industry, to help Dr. Clark and the agency to move forward and to grow,” he said.

“And they need many additional resources.”

Younes said it was “about time” Australia got its own space agency.

“Australia needs to carve itself a good wedge in the space industry and economy and there’s a lot to be done.”

Federal Science Minister Karen Andrews says she’s open to further links between NASA and the Australian Space Agency.

“I’m not going to rule out anything at this time,” she told reporters.

She noted the government had spent $300 million to help grow Australia’s $3.9 billion space industry to one worth $12 billion by 2030, with further funding potentially on the cards.

“We will be looking at growing that over the coming years.”

The pair were at Parliament House to mark the handover of one of three original copies of footage of the 1969 moon-landing to the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

Australia played a key role in broadcasting the experience to the world, with the CSIRO Parkes Observatory in NSW responsible for receiving and sharing the longest and most exciting footage of the landing.

The footage was rediscovered a number of years at the observatory and has since been digitally remastered.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher says the national archive has plans to make digital copies of the footage available to anyone.

“If you showed the resolution of that signal and those images today to a 14-year-old with an iPhone they wouldn’t be very impressed, but in 1969 it was extraordinary technology,” he said.

Younes says a similar landing of humans on Mars is likely to come in the next decade, but NASA is focused first on establishing itself better on the Moon.

“The issue of Mars is not getting to Mars, it’s being able to bring our astronauts back,” he said.

By Marnie Banger