Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Australia’s Place in a Modern Space Race

By Guy Nolch

Australia’s space industry will have to pick sides in a new space race 50 years since astronauts first landed on the Moon.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing on 20 July 1969. While our space exploration aspirations have since expanded to crewed missions to Mars, a new race to the Moon has been gathering pace.

Early this year China landed a spacecraft on the dark side of the Moon, where it launched a robotic rover, set up a colony of silkworms, and began growing potatoes and cotton – all with the intention of establishing a permanent Chinese colony by 2030. India is planning to send an orbiter, lander and rover to the Moon’s south pole this year as a trial for sending people to the Moon within 3 years, and Russia plans to establish a Moon colony by 2040.

The renewed interest in returning to the Moon stems from the potential to extract its minerals, which would enable it to be used as a staging post for exploration deeper into space. For instance, it will be much cheaper to extract water from the Moon than to transport it from Earth, which costs approximately $1 million per kilogram. This could not only be used for drinking water and to grow food but be split into breathable oxygen as well as hydrogen for rocket fuel.

There is also the prospect of mining rare and valuable minerals and returning them to Earth. For instance, helium-3 in moondust has been touted as a key to safe nuclear energy –­ and a viable prospect valued at US$3 billion/...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.