So we have a Space Agency…

The signing of the agreement at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

So Australia finally has a space agency (one of the last western countries to do so) and we’re also partnering with NASA. I’ve seen a lot of people posting stuff on Facebook like 
“Give money to [insert pet project here] before wasting it on space” 
so a few points of clarification

  • We’re not “giving money away” to NASA. We’re investing in local businesses and researchers to support the return to the moon. Local jobs and growth
  • This is not new. We partnered with NASA in the 60s for the Apollo project. Go watch “The Dish” with Sam Neill – based on the true story with a bit of embellishment
  • NASA already has “bases” in Australia – the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla is a joint NASA / CSIRO / JPL station that opened in 1965. And a great place to take your kids to learn stuff.
  • Yes – Tidbinbilla isn’t a secret military installation. It has a visitors centre and cafe.
  • NASA is a civilian space agency. They aren’t military. US Air Force has a Space Command that is run separately and launches its own rockets and space planes (yes Space Plane. Google “Boeing X-37“)
  • Studies show that every $1 invested in NASA returns $14 to the economy. We could be seeing similar returns on our investment.
  • Not having our own space agency means the only Australians to train as astronauts had to become US citizens to do so. Other countries participate in projects and send their own people to do research
  • Technologies we take for granted today came out of space research – everything from the GPS in your phone that stops you getting lost, to the computer on your desk or in your smart phone
  • Who provides the weather imagery that farmers and many others rely on? Weather satellites. We don’t even have our own weather satellites – the BOM has to rely on imagery from Japanese and Chinese weather satellites like Japan’s Himawari-8
  • Why spend money on space? In July an asteroid big enough to wipe out a city passed vey close to the earth – within the orbit of the Moon. And we didn’t see it til it had already passed us. The amount the world’s governments spend on LOOKING for killer asteroids is less than the budget of that cheesy Bruce Willis movie “Armageddon” 
  • The only station in the Southern Hemisphere looking for comets and asteroids that could hit was a Siding Springs. I say was – it was defunded by the government because they couldn’t afford 50% of the salary for a SINGLE astronomer (NASA were paying the other half). Now there’s NO-ONE looking
  • Why travel to another planet? Asteroids are natures way of asking “How’s that space program coming along?”. A single asteroid killed off the dinosaurs – Earth has been hit regularly by asteroids throughout its history including big ones roughly every 500,000 years. When will the next one threaten us?


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