Last updated May 2, 2018 at 12:35 pm
One young space industry worker sees exciting times just round the corner.
An Australian Space Agency can be expected to create a wealth of jobs in a burgeoning space industry from rocket engineering to law, robotics to communications.
One person who is hoping to take advantage of these opportunities is Lisa Stojanovski. The space industry worker and self-described future spacewalker is excited by the opportunities a space agency would provide.
“The global space industry is where the future of jobs are, because the future of humanity is in space,” Stojanovski told Australia’s Science Channel.
“It’s going to open up a whole new industry, it’s going to open up so many more jobs for people. The number of jobs that can be created in space is exponential.”
A world of jobs, right here
“To me it just opens up a world of opportunity. You now don’t have to go to the United States or to Europe, or even in more recent years New Zealand, to work in an industry which you’re passionate about. It opens up the opportunity to not have to move away from your friends and family. And that’s huge,” Stojanovski says.
For Lisa, chasing her space dream meant moving overseas. She joined Rocket Lab, a start-up company launching satellites from New Zealand’s North Island, and from there moved to Hawaii, where she spoke from the site of a NASA/University of Hawaii joint Mars project.
“I didn’t want to leave Australia, but the jobs weren’t there.”
It’s a common story among young professionals. In order to work at the cutting edge of their fields and to further their careers, they need to move overseas.
The space agency, and its impact on building a space industry, may reverse the brain drain as more local opportunities arise.
“It is going to take time because you need to start building up the companies and the size of those companies, to create jobs but [creating a space agency] is definitely starting off on the right track.”
Creating a space agency to boost industry
The main aim of the space agency would be to create an ecosystem in which a commercial space industry can flourish.
In New Zealand, the new national space agency facilitated negotiations with the US Government to overcome the restrictions on non-US companies participating in the US aerospace industry.
“I think if we have a government that is wanting to follow that same path and be that negotiator on behalf of the Australian commercial space industry, then it’s just going to open up way more technology, collaboration, partnerships, and the ability to attract more funding and venture capital as well,” says Stojanovski.
A space agency will also be a single body which can coordinate activities in Australia, and develop a national strategy.
“Once we have that focus and direction, then we can all collaborate to try to get to that destination faster,” Stojanovski predicts.
“Rather than everyone trying to do their own separate little bit, if we are all working on these shared goals together and have these shared values we’ll have better research outputs, and we’re going to be tackling the issues that really are important to Australia.”
Simplifying scientific collaborations
Australia is also being held back by the bureaucracy stifling international, even domestic, collaboration.
“At the moment, when NASA and ESA want to collaborate with Australian researchers or scientists, it’s a bit hard to navigate which government department they should interact with,” says Stojanovski.
“The easier we can make that, the more collaboration we’ll have with these established space players, put ourselves on the map, and put more opportunities out there.”
A range of research in biology, medicine, engineering and water purification is taking place on the International Space Station that benefits our lives on Earth.
But our participation in that program is limited.
“If we want to contribute to the International Space Station science program, we need a national agency. Once we’re on board with that, we can send Australian science experiments up to the space station as well, and reap the benefits.”
Participation would not only build and develop space-related industries, but provide a new range of possibilities for pre-existing scientific research fields, she says.
By collecting a range of data in space with tools such as cube-sats, there are huge potential benefits for research in Australia with the country’s growing strength in big data analysis and machine learning.
Collecting data from space, and then turning that data into usable products could revolutionise bushfire research, agriculture and water in the country.
Bringing space into the minds of Australians
But the biggest benefits of a space agency could be making space part of the national psyche.
“It’s not only about allowing the commercial sector to flourish, but I think it’s also going to put it into the minds of the Australian public that space is legit.
“I hope the space agency sets up an office for education and outreach. So not just focussing on the commercial and industry side and bolstering them, but having a strong communication, education and outreach focus so that the Australian public becomes aware of all the great things we’re doing in space.”
But it’s not just showing the public the value of space – but the next generation as well.
“I love doing outreach and education and inspiring the next generation of scientists, technologists and engineers. But even though it’s something that I loved doing there was a very small part of me that kind of felt guilty.
“I was getting all these kids inspired and excited about space, but then when they would come up to me and ask me how they could become an astronaut or work in space – for a long time I had to say to them ‘well actually there aren’t that many opportunities in Australia at the moment’.”
“Now that Australia is becoming more space positive, I’ll be able to give these kids more options now that I’ve sparked their interest in space.”