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Australia signs deal with NASA to send rover to the moon

Clare Armstrong, October 13, 2021 7:00PM Kids News

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Australia’s supporting role during decades of space exploration has kicked up a gear with the NASA deal to produce a semi-autonomous rover for a mission to the moon. Picture: Getty Images media_cameraAustralia’s supporting role during decades of space exploration has kicked up a gear with the NASA deal to produce a semi-autonomous rover for a mission to the moon. Picture: Getty Images

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Australia is going to the moon for the first time in history, sending a rover on a NASA mission to investigate the lunar* surface and research how humans could survive on Mars.

After playing a supporting ground role for decades of space exploration, Australia will use its robotics expertise* to build a semi-autonomous* rover that could be sent to the moon as early as 2026.

Australian businesses and researchers will be brought together to develop the rover, backed by $50 million in funding from the Trailblazer* program under the federal government’s Moon to Mars initiative.

The rover would collect lunar soil containing oxides*, from which NASA would then try to extract oxygen.

The project is seen as a key step for establishing a sustainable human presence on the moon and supporting future missions to Mars.

media_cameraEarthrise seen from the moon during the Apollo 8 mission in 1968. Australia has a part to play in lunar exploration. Picture: NASA

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia’s mission to the moon would create more local jobs and grow the local space industry.

“This is an incredible opportunity for Australia to succeed in the global space sector, and is central to our government’s vision to secure more jobs and a larger share of the growing space economy,” he said.

“By 2030, we want to triple the size of our space sector – adding $12 billion to our economy and creating up to 20,000 new, high-skilled jobs – providing more opportunities for Australians and industries.”

PM SCOTT MORRISON media_cameraPrime Minister Scott Morrison called the NASA deal “an incredible opportunity for Australia to succeed in the global space sector. Picture: Gary Ramage

NASA administrator Bill Nelson said the agreement strengthened the “long-time relationship” between the United States and Australia regarding space exploration.

“A relationship that goes back more than half a century to the days of the Apollo program,” he said.

“By working together with the Australian Space Agency and our partners around the world, NASA will uncover more discoveries and accomplish more research through the Artemis* program.”

Under the agreement, NASA would fly the rover to the moon as early as 2026, provided it met a range of conditions during development.

The Trailblazer program is expected to open later this year, with applications to be submitted in early 2022.

media_cameraThis 2019 image of China’s Yutu-2 lunar rover offers a glimpse of what Australia may produce as part of its NASA agreement, which will deliver Australia’s first ever mission to the moon. Picture: China National Space Administration via CNS/AFP

Australian Space Agency head Enrico Palermo said the mission would demonstrate Australian industry’s world-leading skills and experience in remote operations, drawing from expertise in the resources and mining sector.

“Australia is at the cutting-edge* of robotics* technology and systems for remote operations,” he said.

“This agreement will leverage* our expertise in remote operations to grow our space sector here at home, while developments that come from preparing for space will make sure our resources sector keeps powering ahead too.”

GLOSSARY

  • lunar: relating to the moon
  • expertise: skill, knowledge, competence in a particular field
  • semi-autonomous: device that can operate to some degree without human control
  • trailblazer: pioneer, innovator, someone or something that is ahead of others
  • oxides: chemical compounds in which oxygen is combined with another element
  • Artemis: in Ancient Greek mythology, the goddess of the moon and the hunt
  • cutting-edge: latest or most advanced stage in the development of something
  • robotics: branch of technology concerning the design, construction, operation and application of robots
  • leverage: make use of, take advantage of, benefit from

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. How soon could an Australian rover be sent to the moon?
  2. The rover’s development is backed by how much funding?
  3. What does NASA hope to extract from lunar soil samples?
  4. How many new, high-skilled jobs does Scott Morrison predict as a result of the deal?
  5. How much does the prime minister predict will be added to the Australian economy?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. What’s the point?
What’s the point of a human presence on the moon? Write a list of all of the reasons why having people on the moon for long periods of time is a really great idea. Think about the benefits, the things that we could learn and the things that scientists could do.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science; Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Imagine that you are part of the team working on the Trailblazer project. Your job is to set up a school in space. The school will only include kids your age. Write a timetable for a typical week in space school. For each activity or subject on the timetable, write a paragraph explaining why you have included this. Write a set of five school rules that would suit your space school.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science; Critical and Creative Thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
Grammar and VCOP
The glossary of terms helps you to understand and learn the ambitious vocabulary being used in the article. Can you use the words outlined in the glossary to create new sentences?

Challenge yourself to include other VCOP (vocabulary, connectives, openers and punctuation) elements in your sentence/s.

Have another look through the article – can you find any other Wow Words not explained in the glossary?

Extra Reading in space