The Australian public’s perception of space and its impact on their daily lives has been largely unknown until now. A recent report commissioned by the Australian Centre for Space Governance and co-funded by UNSW Canberra sheds light on the opinions of Australians regarding space investment and activities.
Space technologies are more prevalent in our daily lives than we realize. From navigation apps on our phones to high-speed internet, space plays a crucial role. Satellites provide data and services that support various activities vital to our national economy, such as predicting crop harvests for farmers and ensuring the safe navigation of ships, planes, and trucks through GPS. Space also aids in climate change research, bushfire prediction, flood response, and Indigenous land and water management.
The report reveals that while the Australian community is interested in space, they are uncertain about Australia’s involvement in space activities. One-third of Australians believe space affects their everyday lives, while 44% remain neutral. Around half of the respondents expressed interest in Australian space activities, but only a quarter claimed to be knowledgeable about global space events. Surprisingly, only 20% of Australians were aware of the Australian Space Agency established in 2018.
Australia has a long history of space activities, including rocket testing and support for US Moon landings. However, when asked about these historic events, more Australians remembered the 2001 comedy film “The Dish” than any actual space activities. Furthermore, only 16% of Australians were aware of Australia’s first locally launched satellite, WRESAT.
Regarding space investment, approximately 50% of Australians believe the Australian Defence Force should prioritize space alongside other defense interests. While many recognize the importance of Earth observation satellites for weather forecasting, mapping, disaster response, and climate data, less than a quarter disagreed with the cancellation of the proposed A$1.2 billion National Space Mission for Earth Observation. Around 55% of Australians believe it is important to invest in space science, even without immediate social or economic benefits.
The report indicates that Australians are divided on whether the country is spending the right amount on space. While 20% believe too little is being spent, 31% think the current amount is adequate. However, the majority (36%) are unsure, suggesting a lack of information provided to the public.
The results highlight the need for clearer communication about how space services contribute to individual lives, national needs, and government priorities. This will help inform decision-making and ensure alignment with public desires and values. Australians see communication satellite technology and Earth observation as important priorities for the Australian Space Agency. They also emphasize the importance of building satellite capability and promoting diversity in space activities.
In conclusion, Australians are interested in space but lack awareness of Australia’s involvement in space and its significance. Addressing this issue through effective messaging will enable informed decision-making and ensure public preferences are considered in shaping Australia’s space future.