The latest industry roadmap published by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, encourages the growing domestic space sector to join with international partners to adopt a bold challenge — providing technological expertise to help to establish a human base on the Moon.

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A sector-wide 'lunar challenge' is an exciting opportunity for Australian industry to contribute to a common goal aimed at growing the size of our domestic space industry to $12billion by 2030.

It would also be used to inspire future generations with a new grand challenge, just as the Apollo program did in the 1960s and 1970s.

Meeting the challenge would involve building capabilities in:

  • Autonomous robotic systems: Deep space exploration missions are hostile environments for humans, so developments in machine learning, AI and robotics are essential to gather data and supporting analytics.
  • In-situ resource utilisation: Using local resources at the exploration destination could require mapping and prospecting, processing of new minerals and materials and additive manufacturing capabilities.
  • Habitat and life support: Deep space exploration missions require innovative systems for all aspects of habitat and life support including food, medicine and shelter and waste management.
  • Power and propulsion: Technology solutions suitable for in-situ power generation, energy harvesting and storage, engine and fuel options for rockets and in-space propulsion.

An international coordination group already exists with the aim of expanding human exploration and presence in low Earth orbit, and on the Moon and Mars, over the next two decades.

Australian space sector support for the lunar challenge would be an opportunity to grow our existing relationships with global partners, including international space agencies.

Launched earlier today by the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews at the 18th Australian Space Research Conference on the Gold Coast, the report – Space: A Roadmap for unlocking future growth opportunities for Australia – highlights our nation's unique strengths and geographic advantages to increase Australia's share of the international space sector.

"Our space roadmap charts a course for economic growth using space, and champions a new era of space exploration to inspire our children with the power of science to make the 'impossible' possible," CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said.

"Our existing space industry is built on a foundation of trust earned 50 years ago when we enabled the world to see mankind touch the Moon – that kind of inspiration is a key ingredient in supercharging growth in new industries, new jobs, new STEM talent and developing a dynamic nation where the sky is no longer the limit."

Developed in consultation with industry, the report presents three key opportunity areas for potential development, which can support the growth of Australia's 'space economy':

  • By building our capabilities in observing Earth from space, satellite communications, and positioning, navigation and timing data, we can grow new service-based businesses that address issues such as disaster and water management.
  • By taking advantage of Australia's geographic position in the southern hemisphere, we can further our work with international programs that track objects in space, manage space debris, and enable deep space communication.
  • By harnessing our diverse industrial and research strengths across astronomy, mining, manufacturing, medicine, agriculture and robotics for Earth-based industry, we can support space exploration and deep space gateway habitats to safely conduct robotic and human missions.

"CSIRO's unique position creates a bridge between research and industry to deliver breakthrough innovation to Australian SMEs and start-ups across the space value chain," Dr Marshall said.

Head of the new Australian Space Agency, Dr Megan Clark, endorsed the roadmap.

"This Roadmap introduces some key scientific opportunities which Australia can utilise to drive engagement and growth across the space value chain," Dr Clark said.

"Together, the Australian Space Agency, CSIRO and other key partners will drive the full potential of our nation's capabilities and competitive advantages, optimising our R & D opportunities and targeting growth across the space value chain to build a space sector of which all Australians can be proud."

CSIRO has deep expertise and a strong track record of engagement across the space sector – developed over 75 years – that includes working with small-to-medium enterprises as well as with international space agencies and multinational corporations.

The new roadmap was developed by CSIRO Futures, the strategic advisory arm of CSIRO, following extensive industry consultation with nearly 150 business, government and technology representatives.

Read Space: A Roadmap for unlocking future growth opportunities for Australia.

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