NASA administrator in Adelaide: ‘NASA should fly an Australian astronaut’

NASA is urging the Australian government to fund a home-grown astronaut.

While in Adelaide at the launch of the ‘National Indigenous Space Academy’, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said NASA should fly an Australian astronaut as part of a space partnership.

“On the heels of this AUKUS agreement, which is going to bring substantial jobs to South Australia on new technologies, new educational opportunities in STEM science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” he said.  

“The natural co-inhabitant along with the AUKUS agreement, is a space partnership and all of the benefits that are derived from space technology.

“I think it’s important, not only in foreign affairs and our international relationship. I think it’s important for the economy of Australia. The space economy brings jobs.”

The National Indigenous Space Academy (NISA) – which was launched at the Australian Space Agency (ASA) – will provide support for up to five indigenous students to travel to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a 10-week summer internship.

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Prof Chris Lawrence, NASA Dep Administrator Pam Melroy, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and ASA Head Enrico Palermo at the launch of the new partnership. Credit: Jacinta Bowler/Cosmos

“We’re proud to have a reasonably sized indigenous cohort within the space agency, but part of launching this program is to build that pipeline,” says Head of the ASA Enrico Palermo.

“We’re committed to building a much more diverse workforce.”

Although there have been Australian astronauts before – including South Australian Andy Thomas – there has never been an Australian astronaut that flew under the Australian flag.

This however might soon change, with the ASA and the European Space Agency partnering to allow the Australian Space Agency director to undertake astronaut training as an Australian.

Nelson, along with Deputy NASA Administrator Pamela Melroy, were also asked about plans to launch a NASA headquarters, although they declined to respond.

The two will now head to Canberra to meet Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, to discuss NASA and Australia’s space partnership into the future.

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