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Interview - FIVEaa Breakfast with Mike Smithson and Tom Rehn

1 July 2019

Mike Smithson and Tom Rehn

Subject: 50th anniversary of the moon landing & first anniversary of the Australian Space Agency


Mike Smithson: Yes that audio will live in everyone’s memories forever. I remember the day clearly Tom. And I will declare my age so I was about nine and at school and it was a July day obviously and it was freezing cold and we sat in the library and watched a black and white TV – this is what 300 people – some small black and white TV up on a cupboard. And we waited and we waited and we waited. But when you- okay it was not exactly exhilarating television but I would class it – the day that Armstrong came down the ladder and kicked the lunar dust – that signalled, in my mind, the most significant event of modern times, perhaps all time. That you think of the technology we have today compared to back then and just how you would even start to think about a moon mission without all the computer technology and space aged technology and telecommunications we have now. And how they managed to pull it off and how they managed to land there first up, get off the ground and come back and do it safely. Now there have been other missions that have been far less complex but far more tragic I guess in their outcomes in terms of not ending well. But it will stick in my mind as a day that you would never forget for reasons of very historic significance. And it still- it defies belief that they managed to do it and pull it off and have it all come together.

It’s our great pleasure now – that is a bit of a segue to our next segment obviously – we have the Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews on the phone and this is a two-part interview I guess you could say. But Karen, good morning. And first up, I’m not even sure of your age, but I think you’re probably slightly younger than I am. But how do you look back and remember that 1969 day?

Karen Andrews: Well good morning. And I was listening to you speak there and I was reminiscing about my viewing of the first steps on the moon and it was actually my first day at a new school. And I can remember – my mother was quite appalled that I’d only just turned up to school and got sent home – because we were all sent home to watch the moon walk because it was so historic. But we went home and it was just an unbelievable moment to watch those first steps as Neil Armstrong came down that ladder and stepped onto the moon. So it gives me goose bumps every time I hear the clip that you played with Neil Armstrong’s voice. It makes me stop and smile and I just think how amazing that that was done – now 50 years ago – and you’re right, look at the technology that we have now, what they would have had 50 years ago and it makes it even more amazing that they were able to get to the moon and that we were able to have people walk on the moon.

Mike Smithson: And Minister I guess when we look back, and you’ve seen films and read all the reports of the other subsequent missions and Apollo 13 which didn’t end well, I guess it ended well in the fact that there was no loss of life. But they were going by fly by the seat of your pants and that’s hard enough if you’re doing it within the earth’s atmosphere and things go reasonably well, but when you’re flying to the moon, when there’s no margin for error – again we take the technology into account – and it’s a one in a billion shot that you’re going to pull this off.

Karen Andrews: Look, absolutely. I mean I try and imagine what must have been going through the astronauts’ minds as they were buckling up ready to take off, clearly aware that there was a reasonable prospect that they would not be returning. But the risk that they were taking was that they would’ve been some of the first people to get onto the moon. Now, that’s an amazing achievement and they were prepared to risk absolutely everything to achieve that not just for themselves but for the possibilities that it opened for the entire world. I mean it’s just an amazing achievement.

Mike Smithson: And Minister, I guess that opens the opportunity for Adelaide, with the space agency here which from memory about a year ago or is it a year to the day ago?

Karen Andrews: Yeah. It’s a year to the day the Australian government launched the space agency and of course, its first 12 months have been spent setting up strategic partnerships both internationally with other countries including Canada and France but also setting up relationships with our big industry players here in Australia. So, you know, there’s been strategic agreements that have been established with the likes of Airbus and Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and that’s what’s going to lead to the development of the space sector and to growing the jobs that we need.

Tom Rehn: What kind of jobs are we talking, Minister? And what kind of growth are we hoping for in terms of that area?

Karen Andrews: Okay. So the space sector in Australia is currently worth about $3.9 billion and employs about 10,000 people, and we will be growing the space sector to $12 billion and an additional 20,000 people by 2030. So there’s currently people employed in a wide range of positions in the space sector so certainly, your scientists and your engineers are there but data analysts. So there is so much information that’s going to be coming through and is already coming through from our satellites. We need well-skilled people to be able to analyse that data, interpret what it means but importantly how we can use that data, for example in agriculture, so that we can look at where the water supplies are going to be, how changes to the waterways have taken place but also are predicted for the future. So the jobs that we will need are primarily in data, in science and in engineering but there will be jobs for technicians, there will be jobs for tradespeople, all as part of the space sector.

Mike Smithson: Joining us this morning, Karen Andrews who’s Minister- Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology. And Minister, I guess I’ve been covering this story from the word go and I have to pay tribute to our Premier Steven Marshall, that- I reckon he’d sign up for a mission to Mars if he had the opportunity because he’s so passionate about this industry, isn’t he?

Karen Andrews: Oh look, absolutely. And I really do admire everything that Steven Marshall has done to promote the space agency moving to Adelaide, which it will do in the coming months. But he has been such a strong supporter of the space sector, and I think honestly within maybe an hour – two at the most – of me being appointed into this role in August last year, I’d received a text message from Steven Marshall saying he wanted to speak to me about space. And look, he’s relentless and that is an absolute positive and he’s a delight to work with. But a lot of the things that have come to fruition for Adelaide with Lot 14, with the space sector, are because of the leadership he’s shown.

Mike Smithson: Karen Andrews, thank you very much for joining us this morning. Exciting times ahead for Adelaide and as we look back on the last 50 years or so. So, thanks for joining us.

Karen Andrews: It’s a pleasure. Have a good day.