Lost in space? Setting a new direction for Australia's space science and industry sector

16 Nov 2008

Australia had a long and illustrious association with 'space science'. The first Australians used the patterns of the stars to guide them to seasonal food sources. Captain Cook arrived here on the way home from a voyage to chart the transit of Venus, with the goal of improving navigational technology. When Governor Phillip founded the first European settlement, he brought with him the astronomer William Dawes. Australia was the fourth nation to build and launch a satellite from its own territory. The 'big dish' at Parkes played an important role in the Apollo missions and the discovery of the first quasar.

But more recently Australia's involvement in space science and industry has drifted and the sense of purpose has been lost. The committee heard of the surprise expressed by some overseas observers that Australia has no space programme or agency and, other than for communications, is reliant on satellites owned by other countries.

The committee believes it is not good enough for Australia to be lost in space. It is time to set some clear directions. The Australian government should have a space policy and, like most other comparable countries, an agency to implement it. The global space industry generates global revenues of around US$250 billion per annum, and Australia should be playing a larger role.

Accordingly, the recommendations in the report's final chapter chart a course towards Australia regaining an important place in global space science and industry by gradually developing a dedicated space agency.

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