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