4 mins read 07 Jul 2020

Australia’s Moon to Mars Initiative Design

Australian Space Agency announces results from nation-wide consultation for the program design of the $150 million Moon to Mars initiative.

Credit: The Australian Space Agency.

The Australian Space Agency has released the results of the $150 million Moon to Mars program design consultation it undertook in early 2020, helping shape how the Agency will frame the national approach to support NASA’s Artemis and interplanetary mission programs.

Submissions were made online by the public and space industry, in addition to in-person meetings that the Agency conducted in capital cities around the country (inclusive of a live event in Canberra, streamed on YouTube). The consultation considered program objectives, design, and potential areas of investment that would help grow the local space economy here in Australia, whilst inspiring the public to be engaged in the initiative.

Over 70 written submissions were made from government, academia, business, non-government organisations, and individuals, whilst over 550 participants attended the in-person consultation meetings held across the country.

The five-year program is a result of a partnership forged in late 2019 between NASA and the Australian Space Agency, which will see an investment of $150 million across Australian businesses – allowing these businesses to contribute into global supply chains for the ambitious NASA program, aimed at sending the first woman and the next man back on the Moon by 2024.

Australia’s Moon to Mars initiative will be rolled out through three major grant-funded steps, which includes the:

  • Supply Chain Program – targeting projects and activities which will deliver products and services into domestic and international supply chains, by offering support through grants and facilitation
  • Demonstrator Program – showcasing Australia’s space industry strengths to the world, by developing new capabilities and enabling new business ventures, revenue streams and markets to develop
  • Trailblazer Program – an inspirational flagship program, which will contribute Australia’s space capability with an international space exploration program

Results from the Consultation

Campbell Pegg, from the Australian Space Agency – who facilitated the Moon to Mars initiative in-person sessions. Credit: Australian Space Agency/Twitter.

Results from the consultation outlined the key need for a strong and growing STEM workforce, with the Moon to Mars initiative expected to provide a range of opportunities that support STEM and draw on Australia’s excellent science and research base. The Agency also highlighted how communication and engagement activities should continue to emphasise Australia’s space capabilities to build a feedback loop back into the economy, and STEM-related workforce of the future.

With regards to the Supply Chain Program, the Space Agency has indicated it will consider how a range of supply chain opportunities are distributed not only to the Primes but also across SMEs and near-primes, with particular focus on integrating Australian businesses into the supply chains of the growing global space economy.

Stakeholders who commented on this sub-program also highlighted the difficulty in connecting with other teams and industry participants/organisations, something the Agency will consider in supporting – whilst not duplicating efforts currently led by industry organisations.

Respondents stated, under the Demonstrator Program, there are potentially financial, availability, and regulatory barriers to accessing space, along with a need to access domestic and international space experts and talent to support the development of locally-grown space applications. The Agency stated in their response that access to space has been identified (and supported) as a key pillar in one of the National Space Priority areas, in addition to the Agency’s current focus on creating a regulatory environment that supports entrepreneurship, whilst also building a safety culture in all space activities.

Participants were also keen to be engaged early in the Trailblazer Program, stating it would allow them to work towards it from an early onset – as well as using the vision to guide the Supply Chain and Demonstrator programs. The Agency responded in agreement that the elements of all three programs are integrated, also outlining the importance of connecting all space investments under the Moon to Mars initiative back to the broader community, through demonstrated value add such as technology that can be utilised in agriculture, mining and manufacturing.

Further details of the consultation analysis and results can be found here.

The Space Agency will soon announce the next steps for the Moon to Mars initiative, with the Supply Chain program as the first initiative to be rolled out. This first step will help establish connections for Australian companies to work into global space supply chains, as well as supporting companies who wish to enter the Australian space economy through their products and/or services.

This in turn is expected to lead to higher employment opportunities across the nation, and add economic value to the growing space sector – in line with the objectives as set out by the Australian Space Agency.