By Samuel Cardwell | November 12, 2008
Article from: Australian Associated Press
AUSTRALIA needs its own space agency like NASA in the US, a Senate report recommends.
The Senate Standing Committee on Economics said Australia is missing out on significant innovation and technology opportunities because it lacks a space agency.
The committee's report, Lost in Space? Setting a new direction for Australia's space science and industry sector, said the government should establish a Space Industry Advisory Council to oversee the creation of a fully-fledged agency.
The council would be made up of industry representatives, government agencies, defence personnel, and academics and chaired by the federal innovation minister.
"The committee believes it is not good enough for Australia to be lost in space," the report said.
"It is time to set some clear directions.
"The Australian Government should have a space policy and, like most other comparable countries, an agency to implement it."
The report noted that, even though Australia was the fourth nation to build and launch a satellite from its own territory, it is now almost completely reliant on satellites owned and operated by other countries.
Rebecca Skinner from the Department of Defence told the inquiry that while arrangements with Australia's allies met the nation's defence needs, the situation may change as demand increases.
"The higher operational tempo of recent years and consequent demand for space products has highlighted that assured access to allied systems may not necessarily be guaranteed in all circumstances," she said.
The committee concluded it would be unlikely that Australia would regain its role as a launch site.
Among other possible projects highlighted by the committee was the building of a space elevator, essentially an extremely strong cable stretching from the surface up into space, off the coast of Western Australia.