Australia has played a crucial role in the exploration of space dating back to the Apollo program, as anyone who saw the film “The Dish” is aware of. However, the country has not had its own Space Agency, something even New Zealand has had, until a recent announcement held at the 68th International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide. The new Australian space agency is designed to coordinate aerospace policy for the country and to make it a player for international cooperation, notes the Australian newspaper.

What would an Australian space agency do?

Australia is not likely to launch its own astronauts, at least for a while. Only Russia and China have that capability, though the United States is due to regain it in 2018. However, a homegrown agency will be a single point to coordinate aerospace policy for Australia. The new agency will also will also be a focus for cooperation with other countries, which the country already does with its deep space tracking network. Look for that collaboration to expand. Finally, a homegrown agency will assist in using aerospace assets to manage Australia’s resources and enhance her security.

Australian astronauts?

The closest Australia has to astronauts have been two men born in that country who served with NASA.

Philip Chapman was part of America’s space agency during the Apollo program but never flew. Andy Thomas was part of NASA during the shuttle era and flew on a number of missions, including a stint on the Russian Space Station Mir. Thomas has been a moving force in persuading Australia to develop its own space agency. An Australia agency will allow the country to develop its own homegrown astronaut corps, similar to Canada’s and the European Union.

Australian astronauts will be able to participate in the space programs of other countries, such as the International Space Station and future deep space plans being developed by NASA and the ESA,

Commercial space will help bring more capabilities to countries like Australia

One of the less mentioned developments is how commercial space will shortly be able to provide space capabilities to countries that hitherto not had any.

Vehicles being developed for ISS servicing such as SpaceX’s crewed Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner will also allow countries such as Australia to mount their own space missions, should they care to. Cooperation with commercial space companies would help make Australia a significant player in space, an increasingly important venue for the economic vitality and the security of nations on Earth.