Fly me to the moon (and mars)

moon astronaut
NASA hopes to send men (and the first woman) to the moon by 2024. Image - Canva.

Deputy Premier Roger Cook, in his capacity as the Minister for Science, has congratulated three WA-led projects that have been awarded a grant worth $200,000 each to facilitate the development of technology for future space missions.

The three projects have received the funds under the federal government’s Moon to Mars Demonstrator Feasibility Grants program. Nationally, 20 organisations received up to $200,000 each to assist in feasibility testing that allows projects to be transferred from concept to next generation space products and services.

The Australian Remote Operations for Space and Earth (AROSE), headquartered in Perth, is part of two projects that have received funding.

The first project seeks to demonstrate the feasibility of a Lunar Construction Rover operated by an Australian team and develop a commercialisation plan in order to secure future investment.

AROSE is also supporting the development of a robotic solution to handle logistics with NASA’s future Lunar Gateway space station in conjunction with Queensland University of Technology and Canadian space technology company MDA.

Additionally, the WA government has allocated $1.5 million from 2020 to 2023 to AROSE.

Dr Sarah Cannard, Project Lead from AROSE member organisation Nova Systems said the Rover’s role was to do the “groundwork” and lay down the “foundation first” – much like building a house.

“This will be the type of basic, but essential foundational service the Construction Rover will provide to establish landing and instrumentation sites on the lunar surface and support lunar infrastructure activities,” said Dr Cannard.

The Construction Rover will also support modest digging requirements to collect and deliver regolith (loose rocks from the lunar surface) and other in-situ resources, as well as to support certain types of science tasks.

Dr Sarah Cannard, Project Lead

AROSE CEO, Leanne Cunnold, added that AROSE is poised for such a project, given its strong support from the wider industry and government.  

“This project goes to the heart of why AROSE was founded and so strongly supported in its establishment by our members and the WA government,” said Ms Cunnold.

Taking these steps toward an Australian Construction Rover will help further the AROSE mission to build national capability and cement Australia’s role in the international Space sector.

We want Australia to have a pivotal role in the Space sector supply chain to generate industry development and job creation, and to inspire what will be The Artemis Generation.

Leanne Cunold, AROSE CEO

The second project is Curtin University’s Binar Prospector which, using their Binar Cubesat space craft, seeks to produce high-resolution digital mapping of the Moon’s resources during future Moon missions.

Earlier this year, the WA government invested $500,000 into the program.

Thirdly, the University of Western Australia with Fugro Marine Australia, have received funds to demonstrate feasibility of their optical laser technology that will support communications for NASA’s Artemis Program.

The program intends to send the first woman, and the next man, to the Moon by 2024, 55 years after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first walked on the moon, and 52 years after the last men walked on the moon, Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt during the Apollo 17 mission.

Mr Cook said in a statement it was “fantastic” to see the potential of the recipients.

“The projects highlight the important contribution Western Australia is making to space exploration, research and commercial activities,” he said.

As home to some of the most innovative organisations in the world, we are committed to harnessing opportunities that grow our space sector, which is key to diversifying our economy and creating new high skilled jobs across the State.

Roger Cook, Minister for Science