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Interview - Weekend Today

22 September 2019

Allison Langdon and David Campbell

Subject: $150 million investment in Australian space sector to join NASA for Moon to Mars mission.


Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews was interviewed on Weekend Today by Allison Langdon and David Campbell.

Allison Langdon: Well, prepare for lift-off. The Prime Minister has had space on the brain during his visit with Donald Trump, announcing a $150 million investment into local businesses and new technologies to support NASA missions.

David Campbell: Yes, for more on this we’re joined by Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews in Queensland. Minister, Great to have your company this morning. So this means we’re going to have life on Mars before we know it. David Bowie was right.

Karen Andrews: Well, David Bowie may well have been right, but what an exciting day for Australian space. I mean the Australian Space Agency’s only been in place for just over 12 months and look at where we are now. I mean, who would have thought that 12 or so months after establishing Australian Space Agency we were going to be part of this amazing project which will take us to the moon and then on to Mars.

Allison Langdon: Well, I mean, space exploration seems to be on the map again. How important do you think it is that Australia claims a stake in this fast-growing space market?

Karen Andrews: Look, it’s incredibly important. It’s important for a number of reasons. Certainly the injection of $150 million is going to go a long way to building the space sector here in Australia, to supporting our local businesses to be part of the space supply chain. But clearly this is an opportunity to excite so many people around Australia, so it’s an inspirational story. I mean, as I said before, who would have thought that we would have been part of NASA’s next mission. I mean, it’s really exciting for Australia. We’ve had a long history of space engagement with NASA from our role in beaming images of Neil Armstrong taking his first steps on the moon to here we are 50 years later on our way to Mars.

David Campbell: You’re right, it’s great news for science. But in a week that we’ve seen over 300,000 kids protest peacefully about climate and listening to climate scientists, and now just because America said can we jump to Mars, we’re just going to throw $150 million at that. Don’t you see there’s sort of a, how could we go one and not the other? There’d be a lot of disappointed people out there saying: we’re not listening to climate scientists, but let’s just go to the moon.

Karen Andrews: I understand how people may well be reacting to this announcement, but let me put it into a little bit of perspective. This will be about jobs for future generations. It is about the inspirational part of science, and that does include environmental science and climate science, and of course because of the Apollo program we have kidney dialysis. Now, I’m very keen to make sure that when we look at science we look at all parts of science. Environmental science, climate science is incredibly important. It plays an enormous role in what we’re doing. We’re looking at programs that are going to look at plastic recycling, and quite frankly the Prime Minister is absolutely white hot on making sure that we are doing the right thing by our environment. So I would encourage all those young kids: look at the opportunities in science, look at being part of it. Make sure that you recycle, reuse things, don’t just use things once and then throw it in the bin. Don’t use plastic if you don’t have to. But be part of an engaging, positive society.

David Campbell: All right, well, it’s great to have your time this morning, Minister.