Wed 13 October 2021:
The Australian government announced on Wednesday that it has reached an agreement with NASA to send a rover to the moon by 2026.
The Australian Space Agency said in a statement that the deal included the inclusion of a tiny semi-autonomous rover built in Australia in future lunar missions.
“The semi-autonomous rover will be used to demonstrate the collection of lunar soil (regolith), which contains oxygen (in the form of oxides),” said the agency.
“Using separate equipment that will be sent to the moon with the rover, NASA will aim to extract oxygen from the regolith. This is a key step towards establishing a sustainable human presence on the Moon as well as supporting future missions to Mars,” it added.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, will announce on Wednesday that the Australian-made “foundation services rover” would be part of a future lunar mission once developed.
“This is an incredible opportunity for Australia to succeed in the global space sector, and is central to our government’s vision to secure more jobs and a larger share of the growing space economy,” the prime minister said. “This mission to the moon is just one exciting way that we can create opportunity and jobs for the future.”
“By 2030, we want to triple the size of our space sector – adding $12 billion to our economy and creating up to 20,000 new, high-skilled jobs – providing more opportunities for Australians and industries,” he added.
The project will be supported through the Trailblazer program under the Australian government’s $150 million Moon to Mars initiative.
“The mission will demonstrate Australian industry’s world leading skills and experience in remote operations and autonomous systems,” the statement said.
The Nasa administrator, Bill Nelson, said the agreement would strengthen the relationship between the United States and Australia in areas related to space exploration.
The recent signing of the Aukus defence agreement also included a commitment to greater collaboration on space technology.
“By working together with the Australian Space Agency and our partners around the world, Nasa will uncover more discoveries and accomplish more research through the Artemis program,” Nelson said.
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