Andrew Dempster wants to put Australia back in the space race.
He’s not talking about putting Australians on the moon, or necessarily launching spacecraft.
“What I’m talking about is developing and operating our own Earth-observation satellites,” says the director of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) at UNSW.
In this connected world, space-based technology is essential to daily activities such as ATM and credit card transactions, GPS navigation and satellite TV. Globally, the space industry generates revenues of around US$250 billion per year. And in this environment Australia has a special place: we do not own or operate any satellites of our own. Instead Australia relies on other countries to give us free access to data from their satellites.
We are “freeloaders” depending on the “kindness of strangers”, Professor Dempster says. “But this generosity can’t last.”
Now, after a five-year-long process, Australia is about to get a space policy. But will it go far enough?