Australian school students to use telepresence in mission to Mars

Pathways to Space program to lead next generation of scientific innovation

Telepresence technology will allow students from across Australia to participate in a simulated mission to Mars, with the Pathways to Space program being launched today in Sydney.

The program, which uses Cisco’s videoconfercing system, is aimed at promoting interest in science and technology careers. Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Kim Carr, launched the program at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum.

“Pathways to Space will inspire students by taking them into a 'living lab' where they will participate in a research project on a simulated Martian surface known as the ‘Mars Yard’,” Carr said in a statement.

“Thanks to telepresence, Cisco’s high-quality videoconferencing system, students from regional and remote areas of Australia will not be left behind — they, too, will be able to join the mission.”

Carr said the project also relies on the successful implementation of the National Broadband Network (NBN), as do other hi-tech programs, including the CSIRO’s SKA project, which released its second stage earlier this month.

“We are linking every part of Australia to the National Broadband Network, enabling a mass of space data to be transmitted at speed,” Carr said at the event. “We’re [also] using those strengths to create the biggest space project ever conceived in Australia. That’s the SKA project.”

Carr said the SKA is one of the biggest projects ever undertaken in Australia, and if Australia’s bid is successful, will put the country at the forefront of scientific discovery in outer space.

“It will be part of a major international network and one of the biggest infrastructure projects to be created in this generation,” Carr said. “It will bring a series of thousands of receptors across this continent and in New Zealand and will allow us to see 10,000 times further [into space] then we can today.”

The Pathways to Space program has received $1 million in funding under the Labor government’s Australian Space Research Program.

“We’re able to get our universities, our public institutions and our big businesses to work together and try and reshape the way we do business in this country,” he said. “…It is an opportunity for this country to be a leader in space research and activity.”

Follow Lisa Banks on Twitter: @CapricaStar

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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