An Australian-made rover will be included in a future mission to the Moon - our country’s first expedition to Earth's celestial neighbour - after the Federal Government reached an agreement with the United States’ space agency NASA.
Announced today, 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 Moon-bound 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 the 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.
“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,” 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.”
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.
“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,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said.
“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.”
Adam Gilmour, CEO of Gold Coast-based rocket maker Gilmour Space Technologies, said he was happy to see Australia get involved with the mission to the Moon.
"It would mean a lot more if Australia could get involved in the launch of the rover, as launch is a big focus of our new space industry," he said.
"There's probably limited commercial outcomes for the rover in the short term, but we are very happy to see Australia getting involved in Moon exploration."
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