Sunday, October 16, 2011

11th Australian Space Science Conference Outcomes

The 11th Australian Space Science Conference wrapped up on the 29th of September, after 4 successful days of Australia's best and brightest space scientists and engineers gathering at the Australian National University.

The conference saw the release of the Principles for a National Space Industry Policy, the guiding principles behind the future Australian Space Policy that the Space Policy Unit is currently working upon. 

As an outcome from the conference, the delegates issued a series of resolutions and recommendations that are worth sharing with you:

The conference resolution concludes:

The delegates Resolve

• To congratulate the Government, including Parliament, and the Minister for  recognising the importance of space to our daily lives, for the investments made and proposed in creating the Space Policy Unit, for funding the Australian Space  Research Program, and for forging stronger bilateral and multi-lateral  international links in the space domain;
• To acknowledge the substantial investment by the Government in gathering evidence about the uses of space and the importance of space-based utilities to  the daily lives of all Australians, to national  security, and to the strength of the  economy more broadly;
• To congratulate the Government for explicitly recognising the importance of space science research and education in the soon to be released 2011 Research  Infrastructure Roadmap and for comprehending the interconnections that exist  between the far universe (astronomy), the solar system and Sun/Earth interactions (space science) and the implications for the Earth system (Earth  sciences);
 • To congratulate and support the Government for its commitment to Australia winning the support of the international astronomical community to host the SKA in Australia, and its support for Australia to become a 10% investor in the  Giant Magellan Telescope; and
• To encourage the Government to develop bipartisan support for the finalisation and release of a national space policy noting that this document will assist a whole-of-government approach to space, will raise the profile of space in Australia and of Australia’s space activities internationally, and will help to remove market uncertainty which at present is holding back investors;

The delegates Recommend

• Funding certainty for the Space Policy Unit, to allow for both growth in size and dedicated leadership at a level appropriate to inter- and intra-departmental negotiation and decision making; 
• Urgent attention be given to ensuring that Australia has access to data from the next generation of Earth observation and geodetic satellites – to include the establishment of relevant agreements and the necessary remediation of Australia’s ground reception, processing and dissemination infrastructure; 
• Continuation of the Australian Space Research Program; and 
• Urgent attention be given to providing space education to public officials to ensure they understand why they are being encouraged to spend time and money on developing national capacity and capability in space – that Australia has considerable dependency and associated vulnerability on space, which can be addressed by supporting and strengthening our space science and engineering which in turn will strengthen our international space credentials and credibility

Some great ideas to create and sustain a vital space capability within Australia.

Three points I would like to pick up on here:

1. The mention of "bipartisan support" for a national space policy. In all of the recent Australian Space events, we haven't heard as much as a peep out of the opposition (or at least I haven't seen much). I understand that they broadly supported the Senate Inquiry into the Space Sector in Australia and its recommendations, but beyond that have not spoken much further. In the difficult Australian political context, it is important that both sides of politics understand the importance of Space to Australia, and the critical role it plays to our country, economy and society.

2. The need for sustainability for both political support and funding, to provide certainty to the space market, investors, and the industry as a whole. As an industry, we cannot survive and prosper under an ever changing context, and the broader space market in Australia has a need for certainty of its future. All other space nations have a long term vision for their space sector, with short term goals and aspirations. Australia should look to develop a long term vision within its space policy, one that directly serves the interests of Australians.

3. There continues to be an 'education' problem within both the parliament, as well as the broader Australian  government. Most people just don't understand what Australia uses space for, and people find it difficult to support a vision that they don't understand. Space should not, and cannot be thought of as 'sending man to the moon', yet ask an average Australian what they thing of an Australian space program, and that's probably their response. Space in Australia needs to be seen as an extension of the critical national infrastructure that powers much of what we do, just like the provision of roads, water, electricity and the like. Turn it off, and you very quickly find out how important it is. Collectively, we need to keep solving this 'education' problem in Australia.

Congratulations to the National Space Society of Australia for organising the conference, and all of those who attended who made it a success.

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