Washington: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced his nation’s intention to join the US’ moon to Mars mission, including NASA’s Artemis lunar programme.
The Saturday announcement was made at the NASA Headquarters here during the signing of a joint statement by US space agency’s Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard and Head of the Australian Space Agency, Megan Clark.
“We are honoured by today’s statement and the commitment of our friends from Australia to support us in our mission to return to the Moon by 2024 with the Artemis programme,” Jim Morhard said in a statement.
“The strong relationship between NASA and the Australian Space Agency affirms NASA’s commitment to establish sustainable exploration with our commercial and international partners by 2028,” Morhard added.
The statement foresees potential Australian contributions in areas of mutual interest such as robotics, automation and remote asset management — similar to that currently used by Australia in mining operations — and builds on a unique history of space cooperation between the US and Australia that dates back to the Apollo era.
As part of Australia’s commitment to partner with NASA, Morrison pledged to more than triple the Australian Space Agency budget to support Artemis and the moon to Mars exploration.
In August, the Mars 2020 and ExoMars rover science teams honed their skills in the Australian Outback, where the rocks are of similar age to the terranes on Mars, in preparation for their respective missions to launch to the Red Planet next summer in search of signs of past life on Mars.
Through Artemis, NASA will send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface by 2024 and establish sustainable exploration with commercial and international partners by 2028.
NASA’s Artemis programme is the next step in human exploration and is a part of US’s broader moon to Mars exploration approach.