Wins for InSpace will help with the missions that matter

12 Apr 2022

Space is trying to solve things that are more holistic – it’s about climate change, earth observation, bushfire mitigation, looking at how we measure food crops and water management.

Professor Anna Moore always knew her future would be among the stars.

"I started learning about the night sky from the age of four or five, and I don't remember ever wanting to do anything else," she says. 

"My mum used to have to come and find me at night and I'd be on the roof. I've always found inspiration and peace I suppose, looking up at the universe - I'm also very much a night person, which helps!" 

In 2018, Prof Moore, who was on the expert reference group that ultimately recommended that Australia needed a space agency, realised that the ANU had many space capabilities to offer Australians. Shortly after, she founded the ANU Institute for Space (InSpace).

InSpace was just named Research Organisation of the Year at the 2022 Australian Space Awards, and Prof Moore says she couldn't be prouder of the team gaining recognition for their work. 

"Last year we won Female Space Leader of the Year, which was impactful, but there is something special about this award being a team effort," she says.

"Standing on stage with some of the team - and four out of five of them being women - was really wonderful."

Originally from the UK, Prof Moore came to the ANU from Caltech, California, in 2017 to run the Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre at Mount Stromlo Observatory.

"I was very lucky to come in at the beginning of Australia's space story and realise the potential, not just of astronomy instrumentation, but the depth and breadth of ANU capability," she says. 

"I kind of had a greater calling, I suppose, to start InSpace. We wanted to do something very different that was industry, government, national and international facing, and which represented the extent of what ANU has to offer in growing our space industry.

"At heart, InSpace is multidisciplinary - without all the other disciplines working together to support each other and our industry, it wasn't going to happen."

The power of space is that it's not all about exploration, Prof Moore says. 

"It's also trying to solve things that are more holistic - it's about climate change, regional dynamics, working with other countries, earth observation, bushfire mitigation, looking at how we measure food crops and water management," she says. 

"Human exploration is so inspiring as well, and attracts young people to the sector." 

The national mission series funding for the Australian Space Agency in the recent budget announcement is a huge win for the sector, Prof Moore says. 

"The funding opens things up for us directly, and also for the whole industry - it's by far the biggest investment to the Agency for sovereign capability in space than we've ever seen," she says.

"It's timely and it's the right amount to start to make a difference, supporting our missions that tackle things that really matter to Australia, and that are new and significant. A lot of thought has been put into how we choose the right missions that matter to Australia and Australians, but give us an international advantage as well.

"The good thing about the space sector is that it's accelerating quickly, so if you get on it now then the return investment commercially is huge. The negative is that it's accelerating quickly! Where you think you have an advantage, you won't in a few years' time. 

"Strategically this budget allocation has come at exactly the right time."

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