Excitement at the World Science Festival in Brisbane – Australia in Space.
This important story about the past, present and the future is brought to listeners across this continent by our wonderful public ABC Radio National Science Show.
First comes the history from Kerrie Dougherty, author of Australia in Space: A History of a Nation’s Involvement, published by ATF Press, August 2017. “The exploration of space was seen as the greatest adventure of the Twentieth Century, while in the Twenty First Century space-based services have become an integral part of our daily lives. Although it is not often recognised, Australia has had its part to play in setting the world on the road to the stars and was one of the earliest nations to launch its own satellite. Today, the country is one of the largest users of space-based services.”
Is it Anthony Murfett, Deputy Head of the Australian Space Agency, with its headquarters in Adelaide, who recognises the 65,000 years of the study of the stars by the first astronomers? That recognition is a sign of how far Australia has come. He does not name Dark Sparklers, by Hugh Cairns and Bill Yidumduma Harney published by Hugh Cairns, reprinted 2004. However, the story of the First Songline of the Wardaman clan, west of Katherine, for example in its New Year connection with ‘the brightest and loveliest star blaze from the northerly horizon’, brings to us the significance of the galaxy in their calendar. See their sky maps [pp 78-95].
In Brisbane the panel of our astronomers and space scientists, interviewed by Robyn Williams, moves beyond the military and defence roles of space and satellites. Some see us able to deal with the debris in space, recycling space material. Others see us being able to show from space where the flooding waters are flowing to help those below to respond more effectively as they face the movement and speed of the water. They see its role for a continent of this size in dealing with the impact of climate change. Others see all the commercial possibilities. I listen with awe. Not an ounce of short-term thinking here.
They bring in the work of Professor Veena Sahajwallah of UNSW. In my previous blog ‘Imagination has no boundaries’* her innovative work is described. They value her ‘micro lab’ and ‘micro factory’ for what she is doing with waste material. Possibilities for young astronauts appear in the story of eager young Sophie.
Professor Christine Charles, Head of the Space Plasma, Power and Propulsion Laboratory at the Australian National University in Canberra, ACT, wants us to remember we must have a planet on which to build our propulsion systems to send our probes into outer space, or our plans to put people on the Moon and have more than the current six living in space – or wherever else our imagination can take us.
At the same time, she wants us to have the guts to take risks.
The Federal government has set up the Australian Space Agency in Adelaide which has all its history of connections through Woomera, including the WRESAT launch in 1967. Now with this Agency, Australia joins all the other national space agencies.
Once more, thank you to our public Australian Broadcasting Corporation.