So. In the throes of mooning about Woomera past and present, I did some investigation into its prospects - more specifically into the prospects for some sort of ongoing role for it, for a living Woomera, beyond some sort of foreigners occasionally wanting to come in and use the range.
I found a mix of things, some encouraging, some discouraging.
But I was particularly struck by information I found on Australia’s space agency. Australia did briefly have one! . . . though it succumbed quickly to a bureaucratic/budgetary “Brownian motion,” if Brownian motion can have school-of-piranha-like connotations.
I needed to vent. (The bit on Woomera may have made plain that my standpoint about everything that follows is, and will be, emotive and emotionally laden - right-brained, sentimental - about as far from cool, rational analysis as can be.) I attached a fascinating document in PDF to a email to an old friend in Australia who, though not resembling me much, has put up with many of my faces very well, so I thought I would try her out on this one.
I wrote (yowled, muttered, cursed - I’ve sanitized it slightly):
I was just reading the attached PDF, and wanted to share.
It’s the “Madigan Report” - the requested report from 1985
that laid out Australia’s need for a space agency and a space
As a result of which the ASO (which later became the ASC)
was set up. Australia did have a space agency.
And then it was [BLEEP]ed to death, there were multiple
extra reviews of it that weren’t called for in the Act, the
Keating government cut the budget to zero, and then the
Conservatives came in and killed it and said “us? WTF, the
Keating government already cut it to zero.”
But it was there.
What the hell, man. What the hell.
Anyway. It’s attached. If you want to read about when
Australia thought of reaching for the sky.
Australia was one of the earliest countries to launch a
satellite . . . and now it depends hopefully on partner nations,
who are sometimes recession-strapped, for the satellite info
that Australia really needs (while, confusingly, having no
space entity or group that those partner space agencies
can even actually talk to). And the U.S. left all those
beautiful [BLEEP]ing satellite-tracking dishes - and they
were all just sold for scrap.
(The last line was an old twinge. Nurrungar, the American project my dad worked on, tracked lots of satellites - including, secretly but predictably, Soviet spy satellites. The Cold War funding paid for lots of satellite dishes in South Australia; I remember seeing some of them . . . and the U.S. left them to Australia - didn’t sell them or anything, just left/gifted them - and that’s what happened. The twinge is sentimental for me, of course, but the decision was remarkably we-like-the-ceiling-where-it-is decision. That was a lot of remarkable capability and options-space, that would have lasted a long time in the bush with little need for upkeep. How starved could Australia have been for scrap metal?)
Well, after I wrote that email, I of course felt very self-conscious. My old friends tend to be broad-spectrum, but ear-bashing them, with documentation, on subjects in which they have no known interest is not something I make a habit of.
(-grins- No, really. Well, I try to keep it in bounds anyway.)
But the Madigan report was fascinating reading. Inspiring.
And meanwhile I’d been reading about the question of the need for Australia to have a greater home organization to deal with space matters at least in some way, even if only in regard to an unchanged status quo of need for satellite info.
Here’s one article I read about it, that describes an unnecessarily down-at-the-heels situation. It flavored that last paragraph of my email.
(By the way, I’ll say this out of order. I found out about the cuts to CSIRO after all this was substantially over. I was stunned. Cutting CSIRO made many, many times less sense for Australia, for Australians who care about Australia, than, I don’t know, demolishing the Sydney Opera House on whim some Tuesday. I saw an account of how it happened, according to which the cuts were added to a bill by one party as a “poison pill” and then the other party didn’t strain at it and passed the bill anyway. After which, I presume, everyone has to behave as if this was an intentional and judicious decision that the responsible decision-makers are now carrying through. . . . The present relevance, anyway, is that one premise throughout everything that follows that I never thought I needed to explain is the great need a big and special country like Australia has for environmental data from satellites. If Australia’s premiere scientific organization can be trimmed with no one saying no, then this premise may not have been as “needless to say” as I thought.)
I moved on to other concerns . . . but other concerns were also prodding me.
I found that NASA had dropped a ball - an incomprehensible, infuriating, indigestible ball to drop.
And my indigestion over it, in the end (and “in the end” really meant only a couple of days, with my brain churning), led me back to Australia with a weird new glow in my eyes.
There might be a technical possibility . . . a long shot - indeed probably longer (and maybe much longer, I guarantee nothing) than I thought when I wrote what follows - but . . .
. . . there just might.
And it was just right for Australia.
In the meantime Angie wrote me back and told me that she’d been fascinated by my email and had intended to write me back in detail but her baby had had her in a constant state of exhaustion. I said, no worries, that was fine. :-) But I was emboldened. And then I really wrote an email.
I am really rueing the lack of ability to vary font colors and font sizes in Prosebox. Because I did this a lot in my email to Angie, to make a very complex discussion, with a lot of necessary detours, easy to follow. Here? I’ll have to do my best just with indents and odd boldings. But any brave soul who tries to follow what I wrote Angie and finds the going impossible has my full understanding in advance. :-)
So, the next entry will be what I sent Angie . . .
Last updated August 12, 2015