Monday , June 27 2022

The woman who placed Australia in space


Australia is delaying the space party. The leader of his new space agency, Megan Clark, said that. This continent, in a perfect location in the southern hemisphere to look into the galaxy, was one of the last developed countries to get a space agency, and she did not figure out why.

So last year, Ms. Clark led an expert council to determine Australia's space capabilities and what they found surprised them. The size of the existing industry was much higher than previous estimates. And never before, Ms. Clark saw the stakeholders so united in one cause: the vast majority of players have long been clamoring for a space agency to act as a single Australian gateway to attract investment, support and guidance.

"And that makes your work very easy, because you can go to the government and say," The country is united, take a step here, there is no disadvantage, there is no interested parent who does not want it, "" lady Clark said in an interview. "And it is not a small group. It is not a small voice, it is the nation that wants it."

The Australian Space Agency officially started a few months later in July, and Ms Clark was named its first executive director. She is now overseeing a plan to triple the value of the Australian space industry from $ 7 billion to $ 9 billion a year by 2030.

Mrs. Clark and her team hit the ground. The agency signed memoranda of understanding with the space agencies in France, Britain and Canada, was appreciated in a resolution from the United States House of Representatives, which promised further cooperation and signed a statement of intent with Airbus.

When the agency was announced, the public was skeptical of its $ 30 million budget for a four-year period. That led to racquet cartoons in the form of boomerangs and jokes on the internet about a witness agency, Australian Exploration Research and Space or ASS. (By comparison, NASA's budget this year is about 20 billion dollars.)

Megan Clark at the Deep Space Communication Complex in Canberra in 2012 with his director, Ed Kruzins, and then US Ambassador Jeffrey L. Bleich.

Megan Clark at the Deep Space Communication Complex in Canberra in 2012 with his director, Ed Kruzins, and then US Ambassador Jeffrey L. Bleich.

Mrs. Clark is undisturbed. For her, the size of the agency's budget is not an extremely important factor in its immediate success. While the NASA budget allows it to dictate to the US space industry, the purpose of the SAA is to attract investment and create international partnerships, guiding the industry and uniting it under one national banner to help it grow – a role she says that it is much harder.

"There is an emerging change in the role of the government from the role of the governor to that of a partner and a facilitator," said Karen Andrews, the new minister for industry, science and technology, in a speech at the Australian Conference on Space Research in September. "These partnerships are expected to lead to new businesses, adding an increasing impetus to industry."

Ms. Clark believes she is well prepared to guide the agency through her growing pains. Her career, which she calls "higgledy-piggledy," ranges from mining geology to venture capital to become the first CEO of the CSIRO, an Australian research agency. Each of her positions, she said, was linked to the fact that it turned the discovery into economic value – a major objective of most of the space agencies.

Like many of her colleagues, Mrs. Clark keeps a childish miracle in the mysteries of space, especially in the role of Australia in their deciphering. She spoke enthusiastically about assisting in the red landing of Curiosity on Mars through the CSARO deep space center near Canberra, Australia, when she was the CEO of the CSIRO. She had a virtual reality program from a Melbourne developer, Opac Space, who attracted NASA and Boeing Defense.

Her repeated mantra for herself is "doing just what is in front of you." She climbed the stairs into her career, approaching a task at a certain moment, a pressure-fighting tactic she attributed to her experience when she was 12 years old. A doctor told her that if she did not overcome the debilitating nervousness as a pre-teen, she could never have a stressful job as an adult. In a sense, she dedicated her life to prove that the doctor is wrong.

It is not one that has left too many inconveniences in her search for discovery, a feature that has led her to trouble in the first twenty years: She was caught working in an underground mine in Western Australia, which was then against rules.

"The game was when, if an inspector came to me, you came to the surface and for as long as they did not see you working underground or as long as you did not" blatantly "work underground, a blind eye, "said Dr. Clark. "And I thought that lacking integrity:" That's what I do and I do not hide from it. ""

A radio telescope in Parkes, Australia, who was involved in the Apollo 11 mission.

A radio telescope in Parkes, Australia, who was involved in the Apollo 11 mission.

Torsten Blackwood / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

Her boss at the time was called to shoot or move her, but she came to the defense and managed to get relief, and the law was changed immediately after 1986. The experience was "confronted," but she did not regret doing it job.

Ms. Clark grew up in Perth, the world's most isolated capital, and what he calls the "last capillary of the global network." She felt there were only two career options in Western Australia, promising a ticket to the world: mining and oil. He chose mining.

She has a strong sense of adventure, a feature that says she is a quintessential Australian, and has been embraced by the sense that "the world is there, not here." She chose where to do her doctorate. in Economic Geology – Queens University in Ontario, Canada – by finding out where you end up blocking a right pivot on the globe in Perth.

Now, she says, the next generation of Australians should take advantage of that adventurous instinct to travel beyond the planet, not just to the other side of the world. The possibilities for Australians to enter the space market were obviously thin – all three Australian astronauts were given American citizenship and went to work for NASA – but now wants to bring back the lost potential.

Her busy schedule sometimes makes her forget how influential her presence may be as head of the space agency and as a woman. But she received an influx of letters from both boys and girls that reminded her that the space of power must inspire youth.

"You see this in space, the curiosity you had as a child. Some people take it away from them, but some people do not do that and end up in the space sector," she said. "This curiosity is really important, and that feeling of being a child and being a little bit nerd about him."

Australia may not launch its own rocket to Mars soon. But he trusts that he will see a man on the red planet during his life and hopes that an Australian will be among them.

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