The Kiwis are shooting for the moon – or at least space.
New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment have announced they will be establishing a space agency, to encourage the country’s participation in the global space economy.
It’s a big move for our next-door neighbours, especially considering Australia’s notable absence from the sector.
As New Zealand noted in their announcement, a space agency allows countries to pursue “disruptive, innovative technologies to tackle some of our planet’s big challenges and to create new and exciting opportunities for economic growth.”
That economic growth has the potential to be massive, with the global space industry generating revenues of an estimated $US 250 billion in 2013.
The development of an NZ space agency is a no brainer for Dr Greg Bodeker, the New Zealand scientist who proposed the establishment of a Centre for Space Science Technology.
“Countries smaller than New Zealand have space programmes. In 100 years’ time, if New Zealand was not doing this, it would be like having no electricity. It would be like being in the stone ages."
Canada, a nation with only 12 million more people than Australia, is seeing significant benefits, with its space program employing almost 10,000 people, generating revenues of more than US$ 5 billion and growing six times faster than the country’s national job market.
Canberra’s Deep Space Station 43, a 64 metre wide dish-shaped antenna at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex [Image: CDSCC]
Australia’s Part In NASA’s Space Exploration
The CSIRO and NASA have been working together for almost half a century through the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC) that the science agency runs on NASA’s behalf.
Since 1957, Australia has been part of every deep space mission NASA has made including the tracking of New Horizons’ Pluto mission and guiding the Curiosity rover’s landing on Mars.
Currently, the CDSCC Complex supports the vital two-way radio contact with the Juno spacecraft as it studies the depths of Jupiter's inner workings.
Our work in the space arena proves we acknowledge the industry’s importance, so why is Australia so hesitant to create an agency?
The CDSCC control room back in 1969 [Image: CSIRO/NASA]
According to Astrobiology Professor Malcolm Walter from UNSW, no Australian government has shown interest in space exploration, other than the use of satellites.
“In Australia, pragmatism seems often to over-ride vision, to our detriment. Seeking to inspire might seem like an intangible pursuit, but it is also a powerful agent for change. It nurtures education, that generates innovation, that builds an economy. None of this just happens,” warns Professor Walter.
“We need to fight for it.”