Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Lost in Space

By Guy Nolch

Australia’s space industry has been adrift in a vacuum of national neglect for more than 20 years, but that is about to change.

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

It’s an exciting time for anyone who dreams of worlds beyond our own. Since the last issue of Australasian Science we’ve seen Cassini’s heroic death plunge through Saturn’s rings and the detection of gravitational waves released from the collision of two neutron stars (see p.6). Australian astronomers have played their roles in these events by collaborating with international colleagues and hooking into the data generated by phenomenal new observing facilities abroad and in space.

Australia may also be gearing up as a key player in the development of astronomy projects as large as the Square Kilometre Array, but Dr Lee Spitler of Macquarie University says the wider space industry “has largely been operating as a grassroots movement across a small number of companies, university groups and the defence sector”. In space no one can hear you scream, and Australia’s space industry has been abandoned in a vacuum of government indifference for two decades.

In 1987 the Labor government created the Australian Space Office to coordinate and commercialise the sector. Some of the big plans floated were a space port on Cape York and the re-establishment of the Woomera rocket launch facility. However, only 9 years later the incoming Howard government dismantled the ASO.

Since then it’s estimated that the space industry has grown by 10% per year and is now worth $...

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