by Elizabeth Neil
(Cover image courtesy Gilmour Space)
It seems the Australian Government has its eyes on the skies but feet firmly on the ground as it announced a 10-year roadmap dedicated to Australia’s aerospace sector.
However, as our planet is in the midst of a deadly global pandemic is this a responsible proposal? Is the money being invested better suited elsewhere? Why should we care about space? How does this investment benefit us, the general population?
The Government initially announced the 10-year roadmap in June of 2018, well before the Coronavirus was rapidly spreading across the globe. The roadmap was designed to support and accelerate Queensland’s aerospace sector, which in turn supports the country’s growing space industry.
The roadmap is backed by the Advance Queensland Initiative, a $755 million innovation initiative dedicated to growing Queensland’s economy, creating jobs, and supporting the growth of innovation. According to a 5-year strategy released in February, with the support of the roadmap Queensland’s space industry will be recognised as the leading centre for activities and programs in Australasia by 2025.
However, the question still stands as to how the strategy is beneficial to everyone. Aside from evolving a greater understanding of the universe we live in, what can the general population benefit from such a project?
According to several industry professionals, space provides endless possibilities for growth and potential innovations for several aspects of human life.
Griffith University is one of the organisations in support of the roadmap, particularly focusing on the use and development of Artificial Intelligence. According to Head of School of Information and Communication Technology Professor Paulo De Souza, space development is an investment more than a cost, and by doing so promotes employment growth.
“This is the time to invest in bold ideas and bold industries because it will create jobs,” he says.
“Space technology inspires a new generation of scientists and engineers … It will inspire a new generation of kids about a career in science.
“The Australian space industry and community needs this next generation to be interested in science and engineering and mathematics.”
Professor De Souza added that creating such a number jobs will benefit the Australian economy, something that took quite a hit with the arrival of the Coronavirus. It was recently announced that the economic impact caused by the Coronavirus has left Australia in a recession, the country’s first in almost 30 years.
Professor De Souza continues by explaining all the proven benefits space technology has for the general population, pointing out specifically satellite technology and its capabilities with video communication platforms such as Zoom – a fortunate asset for many people working from home during the Coronavirus lock-down periods.
As well as improved communication, the Space Industry Strategy outlines further benefits; including the key role satellites are expected to play in solving water and food insecurity via land and water monitoring services.
“Around 70% cent of the world’s fresh water is used for agriculture,” it says.
“By 2050, feeding a planet of almost 10 billion people will require a 50% increase in agriculture production and a 15% increase in water withdrawals for agriculture.”
Currently, satellite usage already provides farmers with information such as precision agriculture and maximising soil capability. However, the cost of processing such information directly from the satellite hinders potential growth for the agricultural industry – which is a big issue for Earth’s ever expanding population.
Furthermore, according to Gold Coast based aerospace company Gilmour Space, space technology development also holds the potential to improve on internet speeds – which would be a major asset worldwide.
In a Four Corners episode published on August 31 called ‘The Space Age’, Gilmour Space CEO Adam Gilmour explains how one of the biggest markets with space technology currently is broadband internet from space.
“There’s three or four companies that are launching thousands of satellites into low-earth orbit, that are going to beam down broadband all over the earth,” he said.
“The speeds are two-to-three times faster than the NBN.”
The potential of such faster internet speeds, and at a fraction of the cost of the NBN, would be ground-breaking for technology and will transform the way humans use the internet; which is already a major asset for mankind.
Australian National University Astrophysicist Brad Tucker adds that such benefits also mean improved GPS location tracking, something that will greatly benefit the agricultural industry.
“You can only imagine how it’s going to transform,” he says.
“The fact that we’re going to get GPS accurate to the scale of centimeters … means the data freeze for farmers and tracking and navigation is an order of magnitude better.”
In addition to employment growth, improved communications, faster internet potential, agricultural benefits and improved GPS, UQ-born Valiant Space are working towards their goal of reaching the moon.
According to Valiant Space COO Bryan Greenham, while the strategy will promote growth of Australia’s space sector, it also means bringing high technology jobs into the country and allows budding space enthusiasts to achieve their goals without having to uproot themselves.
“As someone who’s always been interested in the space industry, I always just assumed that to do a job that I wanted to do, I would have to leave Australia,” he said.
As for benefits for the rest of the country, Mr Greenham added that numerous technologies are being developed for space, including Valiant Space’s own goal of moon exploration, by regularly returning samples from unexplored locations back to earth.
“I think historically it’s been shown that those investments are totally worth it,” he said.
“In our company, investing in the technology that we’re developing will have huge ramifications in the rest of the industry.”
One of the potential possibilities of Valiant Space’s technology is a deeper understanding of Earth’s moon, particularly its surface and unexplored areas. Mr Greenham added that perhaps this knowledge could mean one day in the future, human life could expand beyond Earth.
“I’m personally really invested in the idea of making human life spread out at least through the solar system.
“I’d love to be able to, at one point, be able to look up at night and see people up on the moon.”
At first glance, investing in the promotion of Australia’s aerospace sector seems an unnecessary waste of money, particularly as the Coronavirus has taken the forefront as the biggest disaster of 2020. But, upon further inspection the proposed Space Industry Strategy holds incredible benefits for the country and its general population.
Perhaps in the next ten years, we will be able to FaceTime someone in a satellite hanging above our house? Or receive a virtual postcard from Mars?
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the new space age.