Get Regular Updates!
|NASA’s going from the Moon to Mars – and Australia wants in



NASA Johnson Space Center

NASA’s going from the Moon to Mars – and Australia wants in

NASA’s going from the Moon to Mars – and Australia wants in

The Australian Space Agency wants Aussie companies on NASA’s books, and they’ve got the cash to make it happen.

NASA’s going from the Moon to Mars – and Australia wants in

We humans have been talking about going to Mars for a very long time. But we seem to keep getting stuck.

But 2020, the year that seemingly anything was possible, might also just be the year that we really start trying for Mars in earnest … and with Australia playing a part.

Moon to Mars

One big data point hinting at Mars becoming real is the Australian Space Agency’s recently launched Moon to Mars Supply Chain Capability Grants, which are as futuristic sounding as they are practical.

The grants, in partnership with NASA, aim to help Australian businesses tap into the American plan for human exploration of Mars.

NASA’s Moon to Mars program was launched in 2015, when the agency released their plan for human exploration of the planet, using the Moon as a staging ground.

The Moon to Mars program involves a “gateway” space station orbiting the moon …
. Credit: NASA
View Larger
Image |


The Moon to Mars program involves a “gateway” space station orbiting the moon …
… and brand new landers to send humans back to the surface.
. Credit: NASA
View Larger
Image |


… and brand new landers to send humans back to the surface.

NASA’s goal is to have ‘sustainable exploration’ of Mars by the end of the decade, with the first missions to the planet occurring in the 2030s. The plan would also see the first woman on the moon by 2024.

To space, and beyond!

The Supply Chain grant program is part of a larger suite of initiatives being offered by the Australian government. This is designed to “help Australian businesses and researchers … showcase their immense knowledge and capabilities.”

Conrad Pires, the co-founder and CEO of Picosat Systems, a Perth-based company that makes tiny, affordable satellites, is excited about the initiatives.

“While it’s not NASA or ESA level funding,” he said, “the Australian government’s $150m Moon to Mars program, $19m Space Infrastructure Fund and $15m International Space Investment initiative are sources of funding we’ve never had before.”

Conrad Pires is pretty enthusiastic about the possibilities of this whole ‘space’ thing.

And this is critical for growing our own vibrant space industry, says Conrad.

“These funding initiatives help Australia companies to become part of the global space supply chain and compete with other nation’s space companies,” he says.

“They are also enabling local space and space-related companies to develop sovereign skillsets and expertise, and in turn foster STEM in Australia and provide university students with space jobs upon graduation.”

It’s already happening

And this local industry that Conrad is excited about fostering is probably bigger than you think. This includes what’s happening here in Western Australia.

WA is home to the southern hemisphere’s largest planetary research group, housed at Curtin University.

And of course Picosat Systems, making space more accessible through its low cost, ultra light ‘picosatellites’.

View Larger
Image|Picosat Systems / ICRAR
A prototype of one of Picosat Systems’ tiny satellites.

“Space is not a cheap arena to be in and is often measured by the cost per kilogram to get something into orbit,” says Stuart McAndrew, Conrad’s co-founder and the company’s CTO.

“Picosatellites are very small and are therefore a much more affordable platform if you want to operate in space. This makes space more accessible to a wider audience. An evolution of this benefit is the potential to have constellations of these satellites at a fraction of the cost of their bigger siblings.”

Image|Picosat systems / ICRAR
Picosat takes OzQube-1 on a zero-g test flight

Homegrown space solutions

It’s not just building a stronger local industry for the future by being part of NASA’s Moon to Mars program. Space technologies are already critical for everyday life in Australia.

NASA wants to get astronauts from the Moon to Mars. The Australian Space Agency wants to get Aussie space companies from Australia to the USA.
From weather and navigation to prospecting and crop monitoring, keeping an eye on Earth from space is big – and small – business.
“Without them,” says Conrad, “we wouldn’t be able to connect with regional or remote communities and provide health and educational support.”

How great would it be if all the satellites and space technologies we used were homegrown too?

Particle Puns


Creative Commons Logo

Republishing our content

We want our stories to be shared and seen by as many people as possible.

Therefore, unless it says otherwise, copyright on the stories on Particle belongs to Scitech and they are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

This allows you to republish our articles online or in print for free. You just need to credit us and link to us, and you can’t edit our material or sell it separately.

Using the ‘republish’ button on our website is the easiest way to meet our guidelines.


You cannot edit the article.

When republishing, you have to credit our authors, ideally in the byline. You have to credit Particle with a link back to the original publication on Particle.

If you’re republishing online, you must use our pageview counter, link to us and include links from our story. Our page view counter is a small pixel-ping (invisible to the eye) that allows us to know when our content is republished. It’s a condition of our guidelines that you include our counter. If you use the ‘republish’ then you’ll capture our page counter.

If you’re republishing in print, please email us to let us so we know about it (we get very proud to see our work republished) and you must include the Particle logo next to the credits. Download logo here.

If you wish to republish all our stories, please contact us directly to discuss this opportunity.


Most of the images used on Particle are copyright of the photographer who made them.

It is your responsibility to confirm that you’re licensed to republish images in our articles.


All Particle videos can be accessed through YouTube under the Standard YouTube Licence.

The Standard YouTube licence

  1. This licence is ‘All Rights Reserved’, granting provisions for YouTube to display the content, and YouTube’s visitors to stream the content. This means that the content may be streamed from YouTube but specifically forbids downloading, adaptation, and redistribution, except where otherwise licensed. When uploading your content to YouTube it will automatically use the Standard YouTube licence. You can check this by clicking on Advanced Settings and looking at the dropdown box ‘License and rights ownership’.
  2. When a user is uploading a video he has license options that he can choose from. The first option is “standard YouTube License” which means that you grant the broadcasting rights to YouTube. This essentially means that your video can only be accessed from YouTube for watching purpose and cannot be reproduced or distributed in any other form without your consent.


For more information about using our content, email us:

Copy this HTML into your CMS
Press Ctrl+C to copy

We've got chemistry. Want something physical?