In a statement released by NASA, it confirmed that the newly established Australian Space Agency will be working alongside the U.S. space agency on funding the project in return to thrusting Australia’s science and technology efforts forward.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement at a ceremony Saturday at NASA Headquarters in Washington during which NASA Deputy Administrator, Jim Morhard, and Head of the Australian Space Agency, Megan Clark, signed a joint statement of intent.
Also in attendance of the said meeting were Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Australian Ambassador to the United States Joe Hockey and U.S. Ambassador to Australia Arthur Culvahouse Jr.
As part of Australia’s commitment to partner with NASA, Morrison pledged to more than triple the Australian Space Agency budget to support Artemis and Moon to Mars.
Prime Minister Morrison announced that $150 million in funds initially intended for the Australian Space Agency to develop technologies will instead be used in the US mission to land astronauts on the moon by 2024.
“We are honored by today’s statement and the commitment of our friends from Australia to support us in our mission to return to the Moon by 2024 with the Artemis program,” Morhard said.
The statement indicated that the joint effort will contribute to potential Australian aid in areas of mutual interest such as robotics, automation, and remote asset management – similar to that currently used by Australia in mining operations – and builds on a unique history of space cooperation between the U.S. and Australia that dates back to the Apollo era.
“The strong relationship between NASA and the Australian Space Agency affirms NASA’s commitment to establish sustainable exploration with our commercial and international partners by 2028,” Morhard said.
Additionally, Prime Minister Morrison said that the government also has plan to triple the size of the Australian space sector to $12 billion and create around 20,000 extra jobs by 2030.
Relatively, the Australian Agency will be able to do so once they are able to show that they can advance their technology and gear it towards space exploration, to which NASA will be able to help them accomplish.
NASA, in 2024, has plans of initiating a mission codenamed Artemis, which aims to send human back to the lunar surface and the first woman to do so. It also includes the space agency’s most powerful rocket launcher called the Space Launce System and an lunar orbital way-station called the Gateway, which will serve as a midway point for both astronauts and spacecraft to reach the moon and farther out into the universe.
On the other hand, although the Australian Space Agency is relatively new, established a little over a year ago, Australia has a long tradition of working closely with the U.S. in space activities.
In the past, Australia has worked with NASA especialle during a 1960 formal agreement between NASA and the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), which allows for tracking and communication of NASA missions through the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC) at Tidbinbilla, as well as the Data Relay Satellite facilities in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, and Dongara, Western Australia.
The CDSCC serves as an integral component of NASA’s Deep Space Network, which is mainly used as a means to communicate spacecraft with NASA down on Earth.
In August, the Mars 2020 and ExoMars rover science teams honed their skills in the Australian Outback, where the rocks are of similar age to the terranes on Mars, in preparation for their respective missions to launch to the Red Planet next summer in search of signs of past life on Mars.
Saturday’s joint statement will evidently build on the over 60 years of space exploration collaboration between the two nations and bringing Australia along with NASA in further exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond.