Australia and the Exploration of Space


Peter Khalil: In support of the member for Grey’s motion I would like to echo his sentiment and note that it was through human imagination and human triumph that we saw the first human step onto the moon 50 years ago, and because of it the stars look very different today. We write songs about it, we build cinematic universes around it and we write stories of the stars, all because space holds a deep, abiding mystery for humanity. We look up into space, children and adults alike, for inspiration. We look up to the stars, to clear, bright night skies, and we ask, ‘What’s out there?’ ‘Are we alone?’ They are all questions that lead us a little closer to the meaning of life and perhaps our purpose in it.

Australia has been an integral part of every deep space mission NASA has ever flown, going back to 1957 with the establishment of the Woomera facility in South Australia. In 1962, the Parkes telescope supported NASA’s Mariner 2 mission. Parkes and Honeysuckle Creek played a vital and famous role in humanity’s adventures to the moon. Our location gifted Australia a relatively radio quiet environment for receiving signals, putting us on the international stage during Apollo 11’s mission to the moon. The words from Neil Armstrong were heard first here; the footage seen first by Australian eyes. Fifty years ago, men landed on the moon; today we have found water on the moon. We have taken images of black holes and we delve deep into the mysteries of the universe. I ask, Mr Speaker, what’s next?

President Kennedy famously referenced in his ‘We choose the moon’ speech the great British explorer George Mallory. When asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, Mallory said, ‘Because it’s there.’ Space is there and it’s not going anywhere. We need to ask ourselves, this generation of Australians, what role do we want to play? Do we, Australia, want to be leaders in the exploration of space and in the space industry? Do we want our scientists to be at the front line of research, making the next groundbreaking discovery about our universe? As JFK said over 50 years ago:

The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time …

Australia can be a leader in the exploration of space—the great 21st century adventure to come. We can engage in a national endeavour of a magnitude that fires the imagination, leaping out again to the moon and on to Mars. This is not just an investment for our science and technology industries; it’s an investment in Australia and our future.

JFK in 1961, when putting a man on the moon was just an idea, made that leap of faith, exhorting his citizens to own the mission to put a man on the moon. In channelling former President Kennedy, if I were to say to my fellow citizens that we, Australia, shall send to the moon a rocket named, say, ‘Kanga 1’, carrying a robotic rover for research and water mining—let’s call it ‘Wombat 1’—and then return it safely to earth, and do all of this the right way and in the next decade, then we must be bold; Australia must be bold. We can and should be part of the next manned mission to the moon and the first manned mission to Mars so that our scientific capabilities flourish, expand and enhance our lives with the technological breakthroughs surely to come from such a national endeavour—and the men and women from the land Down Under will be part of humanity’s next great leap out to the stars.