SA has right stuff for space HQ: as­tro­naut


ADE­LAIDE’S own as­tro­naut, Andy Thomas, has backed South Aus­tralia as the ideal home for the na­tion’s space head­quar­ters.

Stand­ing next to Premier Steven Mar­shall yes­ter­day at the Univer­sity of Ade­laide, where he stud­ied, the re­tired space­man said it was not about send­ing as­tro­nauts to the moon or Mars, but about man­u­fac­tur­ing satel­lites.

That is one of SA’s spe­cial­ties, as Fleet Space Tech­nolo­gies is al­ready de­vel­op­ing nanosatel­lites, while The Ad­ver­tiser re­vealed yes­ter­day that larger satel­lites will now also be built here.

Dr Thomas said SA was in the per­fect po­si­tion to take ad­van­tage of the $400 bil­lion in­dus­try, which is grow­ing at 8 per cent a year.

“I’m unashamedly pro SA, it’s very log­i­cal to put the head­quar­ters for such an agency here in SA,” he said.

“SA has a long his­tory of par­tic­i­pat­ing in space. SA has a huge de­fence in­dus­try and de­fence and space go hand-in­hand – you can’t have one with­out the other.

“In my un­var­nished opin­ion, SA has the her­itage, the tech­ni­cal re­sources, the back­ground, the tech­ni­cal in­fra­struc­ture, the in­dus­trial base. All the things you need to have a bur­geon­ing space in­dus­try.”

Mr Mar­shall also said SA was the “log­i­cal place” for the agency.

“You’d have to have been liv­ing un­der a rock if you didn’t know that the Fed­eral Govern­ment had 1) an­nounced a na­tional space agency and 2) they’re go­ing to de­ter­mine where that is go­ing to be by the end of the year,” he said.

“I can guar­an­tee you one thing – we will be putting in a very com­pelling and com­pet­i­tive bid to bring the space agency here to SA.”

SA is po­si­tion­ing it­self for a key role with the Na­tional Space Agency, which will of­fi­cially start on July 1.

SA has pledged to work with the North­ern Ter­ri­tory, which might host a launch site, and the ACT, where the agency will ini­tially be based.

Vic­to­ria, NSW and WA have kicked off cam­paigns in re­cent days to be­come the cen­tre of space agency ac­tiv­i­ties. “Back off,” said Mr Mar­shall. Ade­laide-born Dr Thomas now lives in Hous­ton, US.

In 1993, NASA ap­pointed him to the as­tro­naut corps and his first flight was on the En­deav­our in 1996.

He logged more than 177 days in space over four flights.

He has been ad­vis­ing Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull on es­tab­lish­ing a space in­dus­try. Fed­eral In­dus­try Min­is­ter Michaelia Cash, who has the space port­fo­lio, said she was “ex­tremely en­cour­aged” by the in­ter­est shown by all the states.

“The agency has an in­terim home in the De­part­ment of In­dus­try, In­no­va­tion and Sci­ence for its first 12 months of oper­a­tion,” she told the Aus­tralian Strate­gic Pol­icy In­sti­tute space con­fer­ence.

“I look for­ward to (Aus­tralian Space Agency chief Dr Me­gan Clark) be­gin­ning her con­sul­ta­tions shortly with each of the states ... to prop­erly as­cer­tain what they can bring to the table.”

Pic­ture: SI­MON CROSS

LOFTY IDEALS: Premier Steven Mar­shall with Dr Andy Thomas at Ade­laide Univer­sity's 3D print­ing lab­o­ra­tory yes­ter­day.

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