Full Moon

Mateship in Space: United States and Australia Boldly Go Further Than Their Space Partnership Has Gone Before


On the sidelines of Australian Prime Minister Morrison’s state visit to the United States, the two countries committed to a partnership of galactic proportions. Representatives from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Australian Space Agency committed to work together to return to the Moon by 2024 with NASA’s Artemis program. It is hoped that by 2028 sustainable missions to the Moon — with the possibility of sending astronauts to Mars — will be a reality. Earlier in August, the Australia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) held the first Australia-US Civil Space Dialogue.

In 2020 the United States and Australia will celebrate 60 years of formal bilateral cooperation in space and space-related technology, which began in 1960 with a bilateral treaty on space vehicle tracking. This partnership expanded in October 2017, when Australian and NASA representatives signed a new treaty covering space vehicle tracking and communications. Australia formed its own national space agency, the Australian Space Agency, in 2018, a moved so welcomed by the US Congress that it passed a resolution congratulating the US ally on the achievement.

Most famously, Australia made the broadcasting of the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing possible. The landing, which celebrated 50 years on July 21, 2019, was transmitted from the NASA tracking stations in Honeysuckle Creek and Parkes, Australia due to their geographic location at the time of the spacewalk; they had the full view of the Moon. In fact, the first deep-space tracking station established outside of the United States by NASA was at Island Lagoon near Woomera, South Australia in 1960. Stations, such as the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex at Tidbinbilla, continue to be run by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) on NASA’s behalf to monitor satellites, probes, and rovers.