Australia to play key role in upcoming mission to the moon

Duncan MurrayNCA NewsWire
Australia has launched a program to land an autonomous rover on the moon with the assistance of NASA. Australian Space Agency
Camera IconAustralia has launched a program to land an autonomous rover on the moon with the assistance of NASA. Australian Space Agency Credit: Supplied

Australia will aim to land a rover on the moon in a giant leap forward for the country’s budding space industry.

Australian scientists will develop and build the semi-autonomous rover, through a collaborative project with NASA, dubbed the Trailblazer Program.

To help create a buzz for the project, the Australian Space Agency launched a campaign this week called, “G’day Moon” featuring a thong print on the moon’s surface.

“Controlled from Earth, the rover will collect lunar soil (regolith), which contains oxygen (in the form of oxides). NASA will then aim to extract oxygen from the regolith, using separate equipment that will be sent to the moon with the rover,” ASA said in a statement.

“This is a key step towards establishing a sustainable human presence on the Moon, as well supporting future missions to Mars.”

The launch of Australia’s lunar rover is expected to occur no sooner than 2026.

Australia has launched a program to land an autonomous rover on the moon with the assistance of NASA. Image: Australian Space Agency
Camera IconAustralia has launched a program to land an autonomous rover on the moon with the assistance of NASA. Australian Space Agency Credit: Supplied

Australia signed on to join NASA’s Artemis mission, which aims to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024, including the first woman and person of colour, and establish a long-term sustainable presence on the surface.

“Just as in the 60s we had Apollo, now we have Artemis. If you know your Greek mythology, Artemis is the sister of Apollo,” ANU astrophysicist Brad Tucker told 2GB.

“But NASA’s not doing it itself – it has other countries and we are a big part.”

Australia will draw on experiences in the mining and resource sector, where cutting edge autonomous programs are already underway.

Mining operations are occurring in remote parts of the Pilbara region in Western Australia which are able to be controlled from Perth.

“Essentially if you can do it in the Pilbara, you can do it on the moon,” Dr Tucker said.

Australia will aim to land an autonomous rover on the moon in a giant leap forward for the country’s budding space  industry. Image: Australian Space Agency
Camera IconExpertise in the mining and resource industry will be key to Australia’s involvement. Australian Space Agency Credit: Supplied

One of the main aims of the project is to help develop private industry’s role in space exploration, which has been key to ASA’s operations from the start.

“This is kind of what the whole campaign is about – it’s not ASA putting a rover to find oxygen on the moon, which is the goal,” Dr Tucker explained.

“It’s Australia and Australian researchers coming together to do that, and there is a lot of capability in this country to do that.”

Originally published as Australia to play key role in upcoming mission to the moon

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails