- Australians are more likely to associate space with extraterrestrials than satellite communications
- The space industry must ‘create a new narrative about space and show Australians how space already touches their daily lives’
- 49% of Australians are worried about space debris and collisions, and 44% are worried about space pollution
SYDNEY (RP Inmarsat) — Australia was at the forefront of the first space race and played a vital role in the iconic Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. Half a century later, Australians are more likely to see space as a threat than a frontier full of positive opportunities, and just one in ten say they would like to work in the space industry.
According to a new global report from Inmarsat – ‘What is space worth on Earth?’, based on a survey of 20,000 people in 11 countries – 49% of Australians are worried about space debris and collisions and 44% are worried about space pollution, while just over a third (36%) say they are hopeful about the possibilities of space, a fifth (21%) say they don’t understand much about space and 10% say they don’t care about space at all.
With the space sector attracting record levels of investment and growing faster than ever, it is essential that Australians learn more about an industry that will increasingly impact their lives, according to Inmarsat.
According to the report, Australians are twice as likely to associate space with extraterrestrials (21%) than communications and connectivity (10%). Most concerning for the future is that younger generations seem to have a vision of space built on depictions of films rather than reality. 31% of Australians aged 18-24 associate space with aliens, compared to just 11% of people aged 65 and over. By comparison, only 8% of this younger age group associate space with communications – the sector leading the industry’s global growth – half that of those over 65 (16%).
Meanwhile, 70% of Australians said they had never heard of or had no idea about space internet, and 36% said the same for weather and climate monitoring – although the former weather satellite was launched in 1960 – and 31% had never heard of or knew anything about GPS and satellite navigation.
“I have a positive view that we can help people fall in love with space again. I’ve worked in the industry for decades and I see some truly amazing stories just waiting to be told,” said Todd McDonell, Chairman of Sydney-based Inmarsat Global Government. “It is understandable that with space technology so integrated into our daily lives, it has become largely invisible, especially to a generation raised with smartphones and tablets.
“Space can make a better life for all of us, but public support will make or break this vital contribution to a better future.
“What’s really interesting is that, like their counterparts in other countries and despite a generally low level of awareness, Australians have identified real causes for concern related to the space industry. As the sector goes through a period of major expansion – with forecasts that the number of satellites in orbit will increase from 7,000 to over 100,000 by the end of this decade – industry players have a vital duty to manage this growth responsibly.
“Having come this far, we cannot afford to destroy the gift of space through mismanagement, fear, ignorance or inaction. Sustainability on Earth cannot exist without sustainability in the Responsible space exploration and stricter regulation are essential.
“I see firsthand how space plays a vital role in putting food on our tables, how it protects us when we travel, how it allows us to buy goods from home and have them shipped to us from the other side of the world. Whenever a natural disaster strikes and damages terrestrial telecommunications, satellites are there immediately to support search and rescue and reconstruction efforts. Perhaps more importantly for the future, space technology is at the heart of efforts to combat climate change.
“I’m sure if the industry can tell these stories, especially to the younger generation, then the interest in space will increase and we’ll see a new generation emerge – one, much like in the 1960s, that considers space as an incredible opportunity both as a career and as a force for positive change.
Inmarsat provides cutting-edge, innovative, advanced and exceptionally reliable global mobile communications around the world – in the air, at sea and on land – that enable a new generation of commercial, government and mission-critical services. Inmarsat is driving the digitalization of the maritime industry, making operations more efficient and safer than ever. It ushers in a new era of in-flight passenger services for aviation, while ensuring aircraft can fly with maximum efficiency and safety. Additionally, Inmarsat is enabling the rapid expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT) and enabling the next wave of game-changing technologies that will underpin the connected society and help build a sustainable future. And now, Inmarsat is developing the first multidimensional communication network of the future, ORCHESTRA.
In November 2021, Inmarsat and Viasat announced plans to combine the two companies to create a new leader in global communications. The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2022.