“We go to space to benefit life on earth,” says former astronaut and senior NASA official

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There are great advantages here on earth, due to space exploration activities and the continued human presence in low earth orbit, said Col. Pam Melroy, a former NASA astronaut, who is currently the deputy administrator. from NASA. “Climate change is an existential crisis, the best place to watch the Earth is from space … There are a lot of problems to be solved … We go to space to benefit life on Earth and those who devote their efforts to it, see a direct line of sight. Sydney Dialogue, by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

“Traditionally, government agencies have conducted space activities, but there has been an increase in low Earth orbit (LEO) activity over the past decade. In the midst of this, ordinary people and astronauts go to space. Increasing access to space can create new services on earth and improve life here, ”said Dr Hiroshi Yamakawa, president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Regarding the need for greater collaboration between Quad countries, he added that future lunar exploration must be a joint effort, as there is the possibility of having a manned space station near the moon, which may allow sustained exploration in the region. and also on the lunar surface. The head of the Japanese space agency stressed the need for multinational missions to Mars that would be led by Quad countries, due to the high costs of manned missions.

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Despite being a recent entrant, the Australian Space Agency hopes to build on its long heritage of having performed and facilitated deep space communications, remote operations and space medicine, life sciences. , to pursue their spatial ambitions. It should be noted that unlike the other three Quad countries, Australia does not yet have a stand-alone and independent space program and is working with other agencies and countries to jointly carry out missions. However, the Australian Space Agency wants to grow and grow fast. “We seek to nurture and nurture the industry, by investing in R&D, offering grants, special programs, working with other space agencies and building confidence that there is a market,” said Enrico Palermo, Director of the Australian Space Agency.

Asked whether Australia has its own manned space flight program, Palermo expressed optimism and said they would stand a chance eventually, given the increasing accessibility of space and rapid miniaturization. technological and aerospace components. Elaborating on Australia’s geographical advantages, its open expanses, its experience in space medicine and life sciences, its communication networks in deep space, he said Australia would be able to have a astronaut program. He also mentioned Australia’s communication and follow-up support for India’s Gaganyaan Human Spaceflight program and NASA’s Manned Artemis lunar exploration program.

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“NASA is an engine to drive business development and space exploration is the fuel for that engine… Pushing us to do something very difficult is fuel. Said the former NASA astronaut. According to her, NASA would be a facilitator who would provide funding, establish partnerships, open doors and encourage private actors to move forward in the exploration of deep space.

“A sustained presence in low earth orbit has helped us understand and develop more efficient combustion engines, key processes in the human body, information for the development of medicine, etc. She said, of some of the breakthroughs facilitated by the presence of astronauts in the laboratories of the International Space Station.

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On the future plans of NASA, said Melroy, we intend to transfer LEO (500-200 km orbit) to business partners, so that we can invest more in the expansion in the solar system. “If we continue to do everything on our own, it would be very difficult to find the necessary resources,” she said of the importance of having private companies undertaking major space and support missions. .

It is important to note that the Indian government had announced reforms in the country’s space sector, in 2020, to allow private actors to carry out end-to-end space activities, including the design, possession, construction of rockets. , satellites, launching rockets and spacecraft. , providing ground support and services, etc. India’s space sector has been dominated by the state-run ISRO from the very beginning of the Indian space program, while private companies were only vendors and providers of components and services. However, the latest reforms in India aim to open up this lucrative industry, estimated at US $ 440 billion worldwide.

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