Australia to rove with NASA to the Moon

NASA

Australia will accompany NASA to the Moon, with an Australian made rover set to be included in a future mission. This will be backed by $50 million in funding from the federal government’s Trailblazer program under the Moon to Mars initiative. 

Developed by Australian businesses and researchers, the semi-autonomous rover will collect lunar soil that contains oxides, while NASA will aim to extract oxygen from the soil with separate equipment. 

This is a key step towards establishing a sustainable human presence on the Moon and supporting future missions to Mars. 

“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,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison 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.” 

The federal government has invested over $700 million in the civil space sector since July 2018, which has supported manufacturing, robotics, engineering, mining and resources, Morrison said. 

“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,” he 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 for Science and Technology Melissa 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.” 

The mission will demonstrate Australian industry’s skills and experience in remote operations, drawing from 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,” Australian Space Agency head Enrico 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.” 

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. 

“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.” 

The Trailblazer program is expected to open later this year, with applications to be submitted in early 2022. For more information, visit space.gov.au.