Australian Space Agency rejects it is ignoring ethics and being 'gung-ho' about the moon

Members of the Standing Committee of Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources is concerned the agency is taking a 'gung-ho' approach to the moon.

Issues surrounding how ethics is being applied and considered as part of the development of Australia's space sector and its technologies was raised as a key concern by members of the Standing Committee of Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources as part of its inquiry into the development Australia's space industry on Wednesday.

It was pointed out that ethical considerations are often a "scientific blind spot", and questioned whether the Australian Space Agency is taking an "all gung-ho [approach] to the moon".   

In response, Australian Space Agency deputy head Anthony Murfett disclosed that while the agency does not have an ethical unit to oversee the production of space technologies, he assured that "active discussion" about ethics is being had with industry and universities.

"The agency is very cognisant of the use of the technology, how it's applied, and how this applies to ethics," he told the committee.

"We engage with the universities to explore these topics. I wouldn't say I'm leaving it to industry, we are actively watching it and… the academic community is well placed to explore some of these issues. As an agency, we've got to pull together the views of industry, research, and provide advice to government that sort of provides that particular balance, and that's what we will continue to do."

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Murfett also took the opportunity to speak about the work the agency is currently undertaking to explore what adjacent industries could be involved in helping build the local space sector.

"There are a whole range of companies that are out there that just aren't even thinking about space … so the mining sector is a really good one where they've got these capabilities, and NASA wants it. That's one we can transition in," he said.

"I think as we look at our manufacturing base, there's a whole range of others that are working in defence, they're working in medtech, they're working in agriculture. But those capabilities, if they harden them, can survive radiation, they can then be applied to space and help us here on the ground.

"We've only scratched the surface on talking to those companies that aren't even thinking about space." 

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