3 mins read 21 Mar 2023

NASA and Australia Continue Strategic Partnership with Artemis

Minister for Industry and Science, Ed Husic, has announced grants for two successful Australian consortiums this week, coinciding with an Australian visit by NASA’s Administrator Bill Nelson and Deputy Administrator, Pamela Melroy.

As part of the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon in 2024 using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before. Credit: NASA.

Australia and the United States have shared a strong and historical connection in the space industry through cooperation and joint partnership programs, stretching back decades. This week, this close relationship has been highlighted with the visit of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Senator Bill Nelson and Deputy Administrator Colonel (USAF, Ret.) Pamela Melroy to Australia. This is the first visit of a sitting NASA Administrator to Australia since 2014.

“It’s fantastic to welcome the head of NASA to Australia. We have been working with the US in space for more than 65 years, and I look forward to meeting Senator Nelson later this week to discuss how that continues long into the future,” said Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic. 

The long-standing relationship between Australia and NASA has resulted in Australia’s involvement in many ground-breaking missions such as broadcasting the Apollo 11 Moon landing to the world through our ground segment stations (Honeysuckle Creek, and the Parkes radio telescope), tracking Apollo 13's mission in 1970 (Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex), and keeping in touch with NASA’s spacecraft as they have explored the worlds of our Solar System. 

Moving forward, Australia will once again be supporting NASA teams in the upcoming Artemis program that will see humans return to the Moon for the first time in over half a century. “I’m excited to be working with Australia on this important Lunar mission,” said Senator Bill Nelson.

Credit: Australian Space Agency/Twitter.

To mark this special visit, Minister Husic also announced grants for two successful Australian consortiums under the Government’s Moon to Mars Trailblazer initiative. 

The AROSE consortium and the EPE and Lunar Outpost Oceania consortium will each receive $4 million to design early-stage prototypes of a semi-autonomous rover, as part of stage one of the Trailblazer program. The rover is part of NASA's Moon to Mars mission which aims at establishing a sustainable human presence on the Moon and supporting future missions to Mars. 

AROSE was founded in 2020, as part of a program designed by now Deputy Head of NASA, Pamela Melroy along with Head of Intelligent and Autonomous Systems at Woodside, Russell Potapinski. Based in Perth, the consortium is also supported by Woodside Energy and Rio Tinto, who are working with members to transfer knowledge about terrestrial mining, robotics and automation capabilities. 

“The rover will collect lunar soil known as regolith from the Moon and deliver it to a NASA payload, which will attempt to extract oxygen from the sample,” said Minister Husic, drawing on Australia's world-leading remote operations skills and knowledge.

The EPE and Lunar Outpost Oceania consortium members are developing technologies that have both Earth and space applications - such as the development of sensors and hardware that has to operate in harsh and hazardous environments, like the Lunar outpost or Lunar surface. 

Minister Husic also noted that programs like Trailblazer are important for growing our space sector as well as robotics and automation capabilities; they also help inspire young Australians towards STEM careers. The two winning consortiums are made up of a mixture of Australian industries, space start-ups, major resources companies, universities, and other research partners who have all come together in an effort to further develop Australia's robotics and automation capability which align with development goals outlined in Australia’s National Robotics Strategy.