Interview - 4BC Breakfast

Neil Breen
Aussie-made rover announcement

NEIL BREEN: Now is exciting – Australia’s going to the moon. For the first time ever an Australian-made rover will be sent to the Moon to help collect research and data to prepare the way for humans to live there. It marks the beginning of a new era for Australia's space sector. Melissa Price is the Minister for Defence Industry, Science and Technology - she joins me now. Good morning, Minister.

MELISSA PRICE: Good morning, Neil. Great to be with you. Can I challenge you to also play Rocket Man at some stage today? [Laughs]

NEIL BREEN: Oh, yeah. We’ll give- we’ll get- we’ll dig Rocket Man out. We're digging it right out now. I have to ask Melissa, why? Is Australia doing this? Why are we getting involved? 

MELISSA PRICE: Well, what a fabulous opportunity for the next generation of scientists. This is a sovereign industry that we need to develop. We already have incredible capability already in our space industry, but this is going to take it to the next level. This is an agreement that we reached with NASA for Australia - Australia-designed and produced technology going to the Moon. It is immensely exciting.

NEIL BREEN: And where's this rover going to be made? How- what’s- what's the process going to be? 

MELISSA PRICE: Okay, so firstly, there was a commitment that it could be built and- on the mission before 2026 or by 2026. Early next year, there will be expressions of interest. So, what I'm imagining that there will be collaborations, a number of people joining together, business people, innovators, scientists; people who’ve already got, you know, technology that is quite similar. As you can imagine, in the Pilbara where, you know, I'm from Western Australia, where we already have those sort of remotely operated, let's say, trucks. We've already got trucks that are remotely operated from Perth, that we've already got similar technology in. And so, it's no surprise that, that NASA would want to partner with Australia so that we can actually develop rover and, and get our little Aussie rover on the Moon. 

NEIL BREEN: So, the Aussie rover will go up to the Moon in a NASA rocket? 

MELISSA PRICE: Correct. Yup. 

NEIL BREEN: And then when it's there, it collects soil that contains oxides - this is what, what I've been reading about this morning. 


NEIL BREEN: And with that, what are we trying to do with that? What are we want to learn and find out? 

MELISSA PRICE: Yeah. So, NASA will then extract the oxygen from that soil using a separate bit of equipment that will be, you know, accompanying rover. And, you know, for them to determine whether it's possible for us to have a sustainable human presence on the Moon. It really is the new frontier and that's what's so exciting about this announcement. 

NEIL BREEN: I don't want to live on the Moon, Melissa Price. 

MELISSA PRICE: I don't think you and I are, Neil. 

NEIL BREEN: I like the Sunshine Coast, you know. I like Southeast …


NEIL BREEN: … I'd like to see the Pilbara one day, if Mark McGowan ever allowed me in. 

MELISSA PRICE: Well, if he ever allows you. I love Western Australia …

NEIL BREEN: [Laughs]

MELISSA PRICE: … so, I'm- I’ll be quite happy here. But my- I do represent the Pilbara in my very last large electorate of Durack. I do want to hear what good name is for rover? And we will have a competition, by the way … 

NEIL BREEN: [Talks over] Yeah?

MELISSA PRICE:  … to be able to name the rover. So, it’s a bit of a nod to the Pilbara because we have got- already, we've got remotely operated Mining equipment in the Pilbara. So, I reckon Red Dog is a good name for it.

NEIL BREEN: Love it. 

MELISSA PRICE: Do you love that?

NEIL BREEN: I love it. What a movie. Yeah, The Red Dog. 

MELISSA PRICE: [Laughs] Yeah. You know, [indistinct]. 

NEIL BREEN: It's got a bit of attitude too. 

MELISSA PRICE: Yeah, I know. But a trusted companion, you know, does what it's asked to do, you know, knows what its mission is. So anyway, but it's not, it’s not my job to name rover, but that's my working title, Neil. But we will have a competition and the whole of Australia can get involved to determine what should we call our Aussie rover. 

NEIL BREEN: Okay, so young scientists of Australia, get on board. This is an amazing thing. People- like if you’re a young scientist in Australia get on board that project and be part of the winning bid that could build this rover. Would be absolutely fantastic. 

Hey, Melissa Price, I've got to ask you, just, I'm just so curious, the Pilbara. So how big’s the area you represent? 

MELISSA PRICE: Around 1.7 million square kilometres. 

NEIL BREEN: How do you do it? 

MELISSA PRICE: [Laughs] Well, I don't get a lot of sleep. Let me tell you, I was in Onslow the last couple of days. I was up at 2:30 this morning to talk to all you wonderful people on the East Coast. 

NEIL BREEN: Oh, of course. Of course. You’re so many hours behind. Yeah.

MELISSA PRICE: [Laughs] I’m three hours behind. Three hours behind. But look, it, it- I need a very good team behind me, and that's what I've got. 


MELISSA PRICE: They're very good at logistics, very good at making the most of every opportunity wherever I am. But you know, it's not for the faint-hearted, Neil, this, this electorate. 

NEIL BREEN: I could imagine.

MELISSA PRICE: Yeah. [Laughter]
NEIL BREEN: We got some big ones in Queensland as well. Well, Melissa Price, Minister for Science and Technology, it's exciting stuff and young scientists in Australia, get on board. We're going to send one of our rovers to the Moon with NASA. And I know we don't take requests on this show, Melissa, but because you got up at 2:30 in the morning, I've taken one from you. 



MELISSA PRICE: Good on you, Neil. Thanks very much for the opportunity. 


MELISSA PRICE: Okay. Thank you.