University students host astronauts to inspire Australia about space

18 September 2017

Australia’s potential to become a more active player in the world’s growing ‘space economy’ is being bolstered by the efforts of the next generation of Australian aerospace engineers.

From left to right: Abhijeet Kumar, Benjamin Morrell and Joshua Critchley-Marrows)

The Astronaut Stories team (L-R): Abhijeet Kumar, Benjamin Morrell and Joshua Critchley-Marrows.

University of Sydney engineering students and recent graduates are among a cohort of young people from Australia’s east coast who will host five NASA and European astronauts as part of this week’s Astronaut Stories Australia series.

From tomorrow, more than 5000 members of the public and 770 high school students across four cities – Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane – will participate in the program. It includes STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths] workshops for high school students and free evening public panels where the visiting astronauts will tell stories from their time in space.

Astronaut Stories co-founder Abhijeet Kumar – a recent University of Sydney aeronautical engineering graduate – said the program was devised to bring the stories, passion and inspiration of the world's astronauts to life. It also provides a platform to promote Australia’s current role in space and the potential for future opportunities.

“The global space economy was worth an estimated US$330 billion in 2014 and currently enjoys growth rates of 10.7 percent per annum. However, Australia only commands 0.8 percent of that share, despite accounting for nearly two percent of the global economy,” he said.

“The International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide later this month will bring the attention of the international space industry to Australia. Astronaut Stories Australia highlights the current world space industry to the Australian public, and addresses the need for Australia’s participation.”

International speakers include former NASA astronauts Dr Sandra H. “Sandy” Magnus, Colonel Pamela Melroy and Dominic “Tony” Antonelli from the US, and former European Space Agency astronaut Christer Fuglesang from Sweden.

Australian role-models will also be an integral part of the program, including noted Sydney-based astronomer Professor Fred Watson, Brisbane-based Boeing engineer Karl Domjahn – recently named one of Aviation Week’s Twenty Emerging Leaders – and Australian Defence Force Academy Engineer Courtney Bright. With backgrounds including engineering, aviation, science and academia, the astronauts will highlight the diverse but open pathways that lead to a career in space.

Volunteers from the University of Sydney’s School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering will be a part of the workshop, where they hope to ignite the same passion for STEM as they had at school.

Astronaut Stories co-founder Joshua Critchley-Marrows – a current University of Sydney science/engineering student – said the Astronaut Stories Australia team hoped to make people aware of the country’s potential for a space-related future.

“Australia’s universities are world-renowned for their education and research and the space start-up sector is also growing in Australia’s capital cities – however the general public is largely unaware of nation’s growing space capabilities,” he said.

“We hope more awareness and community support will give the local industry a voice, and by inspiring Australian students to get interested in STEM subjects our industry will grow bigger and better in the future.”

An Evening of Astronaut Stories Sydney is sponsored by the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Engineering and IT, the Royal Aeronautical Society Australia Division and supported by the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.

For more information on the events happening in Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane, please visit the Astronaut Stories Australia website.

Jennifer Peterson-Ward

Senior Manager, Strategic Communications and Engagement

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