Space research centre renamed after Australia’s first astronaut

The Andy Thomas Centre for Space Resources is the new title for the University of Adelaide centre spearheading how to optimise the sustainable use of off-Earth resources.

Dr Andy Thomas, the first Australian to fly in space as a professional NASA astronaut, and University of Adelaide alumnus, is the Centre’s patron.

“I am honoured to be associated with this globally unique education and research facility which seeks to address the challenges faced by long-term planetary exploration, while ensuring the near-term application of solutions here on Earth,” said Dr Thomas.

“Sustainable use of resources in space is critical to the future of space travel.”Dr Andy Thomas

“Journeys into deep space will only be viable if we find ways to identify, assess and model resources on planets and near-Earth objects and extract these resources and process them in a responsible, efficient and sustainable way.

“Astronauts of the future will need to generate and store energy and fuels, grow food, maintain equipment and ensure safe and reliable operations on other worlds.

“For life to prosper on new worlds, space resources will need to be made into new essential products.

“Sustainable use of resources in space is critical to the future of space travel.”

The renaming will be announced today, Wednesday 25 November, at the Tenth Australian Space Forum held virtually. Dr Thomas will speak via a recorded video message about the Centre and its vision for the sustainable use of resources in space.

The Andy Thomas Centre for Space Resources connects the University of Adelaide’s specialist capabilities in artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, mining engineering, and advanced materials and manufacturing to global efforts in off-world exploration and habitation.

“Successful long-term space exploration requires a fundamental rethinking of the technologies, processes and infrastructure required to ensure continued and sustainable access to the energy, fuels and resources necessary for off-world operations,” said Associate Professor John Culton, Director of the Andy Thomas Centre for Space Resources.

“The Andy Thomas Centre for Space Resources combines additional specialist capabilities from across the University to address the end-to-end value chain for sustainable off-world resource utilisation including energy and fuel, health and medicine, and food production.

“Addressing the challenges for sustainable planetary resource exploration also provides opportunities for developing new technologies that can underpin long term, sustainable, resource exploration and processing in remote locations here on Earth.”

The In-Situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU) concept, pioneered by NASA, addresses the reliance on Earth-based materials for long term space exploration by proposing an off-world, self-contained resource chain covering the exploration, extraction and utilisation of the resources required for sustained space operations.

“This concept leads the way for the construction of habitation modules, industrial facilities, laboratories and transportation solutions utilising off-planet resources and materials,” said Associate Professor Culton.

“Success in ISRU operations will be fundamental to successful long-term habitation of other planetary bodies such as the Moon and Mars.”

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