Australia’s national science agency is calling on industry to take a giant leap forward to capitalise on NASA’s plan to build a human base on the Moon.
The lunar challenge is part of the latest space industry roadmap published by the CSIRO and released today at the Australian Space Research Conference on the Gold Coast.
It was part of a plan backed by the fledgling Australian Space Agency (ASA) to grow a viable domestic space industry by 2030.
CSIRO executive director Dr David Williams said the establishment of a lunar base was not as far-fetched as it seemed.
“I think it should be achievable. If you look at the US position, the President has declared that a lunar base is a prerequisite for going to Mars, and he has changed the focus of NASA to try and do a lunar base,” he said.
ASA head Dr Megan Clark said it initially planned to build an orbital lunar space station.
“The space agency is already in discussion with the US, and NASA, on NASA’s plan for a lunar gateway,” she said.
“NASA has plans to have a gateway that will orbit the Moon, as well as thinking about the potential of lunar bases.”
Australia played a critical role in tracking for the Apollo Moon missions and could do so again, Dr Clark said.
She said being involved in joint missions was vital if home-grown technology was to be tested in space.
“We don’t have the money to be able to fund massive $10 billion missions by ourselves, but we do have the capacity to participate in those missions and show what Australia can do,” she said.
“We want to see Australian technology and we want to see Australians have access to that sort of a mission.”
‘Australia has a lot to contribute’
Dr Williams said the US would be looking for international partners.
“The support structure around maintaining a base is very important,” he said.
“You need water. You need oxygen. You need food. You need infrastructure.”
He said Australian industry had skills in all of those areas.
“We’re the home of titanium printing, 3D printing. We’ve got good remote mining capabilities in hostile conditions,” he said.
Dr Clark said Australia’s experience in battling drought and its work in Antarctica would be useful in dealing with the hostile environment of a lunar base.
“Even the dust is very sharp and corrosive. It’s not like dust on Earth,” she said.
“How do you operate? How could you live there? All of the aspects of living and operating in those really harsh environments … actually Australia has a lot to contribute.”