The most comprehensive book ever written about Australia’s history in space has been launched just weeks out from the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide. The book Australia in Space is written by respected space historian Kerrie Dougherty who was Curator of Space Technology at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney for 25 years. The 196-page full color book includes dozens of photographs and nine chapters ranging from the origins of space activity in Australia through to Australia’s current space policies. It is a rewritten, expanded and updated follow up of Dougherty’s 1993 book Space Australia.
“At that time it was essentially the first history of Australia’s space activities produced for the general public but it’s now long out of date,” Dougherty said. “I’ve almost totally rewritten and updated it with the last entry being in May this year. We’re very proud to have it available now just in advance of the congress and we hope it will be a valuable tool especially given the current discussions about Australia’s potential future in space.”
Despite having a long history in the industry, Australia remains one of the few OECD nations without a national space program or agency. The Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA) launched a White Paper in March calling on the Australian Government to establish a national space agency.A Federal Government review into the long-term plan for the sector in Australia began last month and will not be complete until March of next year.
Chris Schacht is a former Minister of Communications in Hawke and Keating Australian Governments. He is now on the SIAA Board of Directors. Schacht said Australia’s space history had been littered with missed opportunities since the 1970s. However, he said the IAC at the Adelaide Convention Centre — the biggest conference ever held in South Australia — provided a major opportunity to create momentum for the Australian space industry.
“We’ll have more than 4,000 people here for a week and if that doesn’t kick start the interest in the general public and in government and industr,y I don’t know what will,” Schacht said. “This book coming out at the same time is a really good foundation stone to change the parameters and the debate in Australia of why we need to have a space agency and a space industry. If we had a national space agency with enough resources behind it, it will encourage a lot more people to start looking at how to be involved in space activities on the industry side of things.”
In addition to the book, the State Library will, next week, launch a six-week exhibition From Outback to Outer Space: Woomera 1955-1980 to celebrate the contribution of the South Australian rocket test range to the global space industry.
In the foreword of Dougherty’s book, Australia’s first astronaut Andy Thomas writes, “Still today the iconic name ‘Woomera’ continues to evoke within me the mystery and excitement of the early days of rocketry. And as a young boy growing up in South Australia, I recall the mythology surrounding that strange and distant land where amazing adventures were being realized.”
Published by Adelaide-based ATF Press, the book can be purchased through the Space Industry Association of Australia’s website. Hard copies of the book will also be for sale at the IAC from September 25-29 in Adelaide.
Article written by Andrew Spence of The Lead.