Who wants to be the next Australian Space Agency boss?

By Stephen Easton

December 18, 2019

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The Australian government is looking for a “visionary space leader” to take over from the inaugural head of its new Space Agency, Dr Megan Clark, when her term ends midway through 2020.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews thanked Clark for her efforts in defining the new agency’s role, through a comprehensive review of Australia’s existing space industry, and getting it up and running as its first chief executive.

Both in leading the review and the new agency, Clark went out and struck up conversations with people in towns and cities all over Australia, where she found strong public support for the renewed push to get back into space that cut across social, political and regional demographics.

“There’s something very deep in our connection with space, and it has a lot to do with our partnership very early on with the US,” she said, explaining how she went about the historic task in this year’s Williams Oration, hosted by the Institute of Public Administration Australia in Canberra. “But I have to say this: our capacity to inspire the nation surprised us all.”

According to Clark, the Australian Space Agency’s strong public support is the envy of some of its international counterparts and she believes the way to maintain it is by sticking to its values, setting clear and realistic goals, and following through on what it says it will do.

While the original space age was mostly a government-funded affair driven by the intense rivalry of the Cold War and the race to develop intercontinental missiles, militarisation has taken a back seat to commercialisation in the new era.

For a nation like Australia, the key aim is economic growth and diversification. The goal is to triple the size of the local space sector by 2030; the government hopes this would generate $12 billion worth of new economic activity and create about 20,000 jobs. Being born in the age of private-sector space projects, Clark said the ASA had “the most commercially focused purpose” of any such body in the world, and a firm focus on working through partnerships.

Her term finishes in mid-2020 and a global search for a replacement is underway. “Qualified Australian citizens both at home and abroad will be considered for the position,” according to the minister.

“Dr Clark has helped show the world that Australia is a serious player in space technology and exploration,” Andrews said. “The job of our next agency head will be to build on that foundation by helping Australian businesses secure a bigger share of the space race.

“The next agency head doesn’t just have big shoes to fill replacing Dr Clark, they will need the drive and vision to lead an Australian space sector that is moving fast.

“Space businesses and advanced manufacturers across the country have seen the opportunities in the space market and they aren’t wasting any time. The next head of the Australian Space Agency will be someone who can match this emerging sector’s energy and dynamism as we work together to grow a globally respected Australian industry.”

Read more in Mandarin Premium: Space Agency chief Dr Megan Clark on providing influential advice to government: tell them what the public really thinks

Clark said it has been an honour to serve as the Australian Space Agency’s first leader. “It has been exciting to be involved in the early stages of such an important initiative and our success so far is testament to the support we have received from the community and space industry and the professionalism and commitment of our people.”

Her successor will be expected to continue developing the agency itself, working with state and territory governments, and building relationships with international partner agencies.

The federal government has so far committed over $600 million, including $150 million to help propel Australian businesses into the supply chain for NASA’s ambitious Moon to Mars mission.

The ASA’s involvement in that project was cemented in a joint letter of intent signed by Clark and NASA’s deputy administrator Jim Morhard in September.

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