Plan to Mine the Moon Gives Australia Opening in New Space Era – by James Thornhill (Bloomberg News – April 1, 2019)

Australia is joining the growing number of nations looking to compete in space, from launching micro satellites that track sheep to mining water on the moon. Its advantage? Half the country already looks like Mars.

With advances in technology and the falling cost of launch slots, the fledgling Australian Space Agency, set up last year, is taking a commercial approach to extra-terrestrial ventures. It aims to leverage the country’s industrial skills in mining remote locations, developing automation and tapping a fast-growing start-up culture to triple the size of the sector to A$12 billion ($8.5 billion) by 2030.

“We’re witnessing a massive transformation of the sector, due to things like the miniaturization of technology, the lowering cost of launch and faster innovation cycles,” ASA Deputy Head, Anthony Murfett said in an interview. ASA aims to be “one of the most industry-focused space agencies in the world.”

It will need to be. The government budget for ASA is just A$41 million for four years, compared to NASA’s annual $20 billion and the European Space Agency’s 5.7 billion euros ($6.4 billion). Without deep pockets, Australia’s ambitious space projects will need to be commercial enough to interest businesses.

Andrew Dempster, Director of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research at the University of New South Wales, is focused on reducing the investment risk for big resources companies like Rio Tinto Group in a proposal to mine water on the moon.

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