Adventuring Beyond the Outback: Australia in Outer Space

After launching from the Kennedy Space Center on 8 July, the NASA Space Shuttle  successfully returned home today. The landing marks the close of a 30-year run for the Space Shuttle and ends an era in American history. The final Space Shuttle launch is an important moment in the American space program — but what about Australia’s astronomic endeavours?

Dr. Paul Scully-Power, the first Australian in space, poses with part of the Embassy of Australia Education Team

Never one to miss an adventure, Australia is active in outer space. One such project is the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), which will be the world’s biggest radio telescope, capable of seeing 10,000 times farther than current technology. Australia and New Zealand are competing jointly to host the SKA, which will try to answer such questions as:

  • Is there life on a planet other than Earth?
  • What happened after the Big Bang?
  • How do galaxies evolve?

If you have (simpler!) questions of your own, you can read more about Australia’s role in the development of the SKA here.

The Australian Space Research Program is another way that Australia is involved in astronomy. This program provides funding to a variety of projects revolving around… you guessed it, space research. Past projects include developing a new kind of scramjet engine, using space technology for environmental monitoring, and setting up broadband in Antarctica. Curious? Learn more here.

And, what Australian space project would be complete without some sort of marsupial? In comes the Lunar Numbat (the Lunar WHAT?). A numbat is a termite-eating marsupial native to Australia; this particular privately-funded research project hopes to send a robotic numbat to the moon. You can read more about it here.

Looking to get in on the numbat action? Or maybe you just want to study space in Australia? Either way, make sure to check out the Excellence in Research for Australia rankings to see which Aussie universities offer the best programs in Astronomical and Space Sciences (click here for the list). For a complete list of Australian universities, click here.


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