Perth positioned to tap into global space industry

Most West Australians would be aware of the State’s historic involvement with space exploration — from Perth being labelled the City of Light by astronaut John Glenn in 1962, when residents turned on their lights as his spacecraft soared overhead, to Carnarvon hosting a tracking station that played a key role in NASA’s early operations.

But few would realise how well Perth is positioned to take advantage of expected growth in the global space industry — or that Australia’s only observation satellite is controlled from an unassuming building in the city’s southern suburbs.

The scientist responsible for operating that satellite and interpreting the images it supplies is Amy Parker, from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO.

Australia is one of the world’s biggest users of satellite imagery, including for weather forecasts, assessing natural hazards and monitoring crop health and coastline changes over time.

“We use it in many different parts of life,” Dr Parker said. “But we haven’t in the past operated our own satellites. And so CSIRO, on behalf of Australia, purchased a 10 per cent capacity share in the satellite NovaSAR.”

Camera IconDr Parker grew up in England and studied geophysics before arriving in Perth in 2015 as a post-doctoral researcher at Curtin University. Credit: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

Based at the Australian Resources Research Centre in Kensington, the 31-year-old is in charge of how Australia collects and receives satellite data, assesses it and distributes it to users.

Dr Parker, who grew up in England and studied geophysics before arriving in Perth in 2015 as a post-doctoral researcher at Curtin University, said her interest in the way the planet was shaped by natural forces was first sparked as a seven-year-old when she read about the volcano that destroyed the ancient civilisation of Pompeii.

“I remember looking at the National Geographic and seeing all of the people who got caught in the Pompeii eruption and seeing their mummified bodies,” she said. “And just looking at it over and over again and being amazed that the Earth could do this.

“I think I’ve always been really interested in the Earth. In travelling the Earth, in being outside and in understanding how it works.

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