Australia’s aspirations to send a semi-autonomous rover moon-side are one step closer.
The federal government has opened applications for businesses and researchers to share in $50 million to create a small rover for NASA to send to the moon as early as 2026. Applications will be accepted until late February next year.
Under the Trailblazer program and the government’s $150 million ‘moon to mars’ initiative, which The Mandarin reported on in November, successful space industry businesses will get funding to develop and build the semi-autonomous rover.
Science and technology minister Melissa Price said the rover’s moon mission would be to collect lunar soil and deliver it to NASA equipment, which will attempt to extract oxygen.
“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,” Price said in a statement.
“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 skill sets.”
As part of the initial stage of the Trailblazer program, two groups will receive up to $4 million to develop a rover to go through to Preliminary Design Review. One of the proposed designs will then be chosen to further develop the rover through to launch and operation on the moon.
Australia’s mission to the Moon begins. The Trailblazer grant program, under our $150m Moon to Mars initiative, has opened.
— Enrico Palermo (@HeadSpaceAu) December 7, 2021
Australian Space Agency head Enrico Palermo said the rover mission sat alongside other local commercial efforts to develop and send technology to the moon, reflecting a growing sector.
“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,” Palermo said.
“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,” he added.
This week a parliamentary committee recommended the Australian Space Agency be delegated from the federal parliament after hearing industry-widespread support for the move.
The government has set a goal to triple the local space sector’s size to $12 billion and create up to an extra 20,000 jobs by 2030. Since July 2018, more than $800 million in federal money has been invested in the civil space sector.