The Australian space industry can now put its hands up to lead the nation’s first mission to the Moon as part of the federal government’s plan to grow the sector and create jobs here at home.
Now officially opened, the Trailblazer program sees businesses able to apply for the up to $50 million made available for a consortium of Australian businesses and researchers to develop and build a small rover that will head to the Moon with NASA as early as 2026.
The semi-autonomous rover will collect lunar soil and deliver it to NASA equipment, which will attempt to extract oxygen. This is a key step towards establishing a sustainable human presence on the Moon, as well as supporting future missions to Mars.
“Through this program Australian businesses will get to work closely with NASA, which will bring them into the focus of global space players. Excitingly, this program will deliver right along the supply chain – from the scientific minds that will come up with the design of the rover to the manufacturers which will make it come to life. “That’s why we invest in space – not only does the technology that’s developed improve our everyday life but it drives growth across a range of industries and creates jobs for Australians across a range of skillsets.” Minister for Science and Technology Melissa Price said.
This national mission sits alongside other commercial efforts from Australian organisations to develop and send technology to the Moon, in a sign of the growing depth of the Australian space sector.
Head of the Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo said this mission will build on that momentum in the sector. “This is an incredible opportunity for Australian organisations to demonstrate their capability on the global stage, which will push them to grow and create fantastic new career opportunities for Australians,” Mr Palermo said. “The opportunities that building and operating this rover will present to those involved will extend well beyond just this mission – it will set them up to seriously compete internationally well into the future.”
Stage one of the Trailblazer program will see up to two consortia receive up to $4 million to develop a rover to go through to Preliminary Design Review. Based on that review a single consortium will be chosen to further develop their rover through to launch and operation on the Moon.
Applications for the Trailblazer program will close on 28 February 2022, with more information, including the detailed guidelines, available at here.