Why storytelling is key to putting a rocket under our space sector

In the boundless cosmos of innovation, storytelling propels the space sector forward by translating complex endeavors into relatable narratives, captivating imaginations, securing support, and fueling the trajectory of progress.

Communications, Digital, Conference, Public Relations, Technology

Chris Leitch 26 Oct 2023
4 mins

Space captures the imagination like few other subjects.

We only need to recall the excitement around the launch of WA’s first satellite, Binar-1, two years ago, and see the intense interest in private space travel and NASA’s next mission to the moon to understand.

But how can we channel this interest to inspire the next generation, enhance cross-industry collaboration, and reach new frontiers in discovery?

Creative storytelling and promoting our local success stories may be part of the answer as we discovered at the Indo-Pacific Space and Earth Conference this week.

Why Western Australia was the star of the show

Western Australia has rocketed into conversations around the final frontier as Perth hosted the Indo-Pacific Space and Earth Conference, where more than 400 delegates discussed innovation and investment in space and related industries.

Many speakers from NASA presented at the conference and reinforced Australia’s role in Team Artemis, supporting NASA’s Artemis program that intends to land the first woman and first person of colour on the Moon.

Artemis also intends to use innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before, and establish the first long-term human presence on the Moon, before directing its gaze to Mars.

Western Australia was also recognised for its fostering of research, innovation and technology projects, particularly the transfer of knowledge in robotics and autonomous operations from the resources sector into space-related industries and support infrastructure.

WA’s AROSE (Australian Remote Operations for Space and Earth) consortium, best known for developing Western Australia’s first satellite, Binar-1, is now developing a bid to design a lunar rover that will be deployed on Artemis 3, which is planned for 2025.

Another local success story is Fugro’s Perth-based SpAARC (Space Automation AI and Robotics Control) complex, which trains, tests and controls remote and autonomous operations in space and other harsh environments.

The company started the week on a bright note with an additional $5 million from the State Government. Fugro SpAARC director Samuel Forbes said the funding will allow the company to start cultivating local expertise and build capacity to support international space missions from Perth.

How can we use space exploration to inspire the next generation?

Fugro SpAARC and AROSE are two examples of WA organisations that tell their stories well, yet we still face a shortage of people taking a STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) career path, or collaborating on ideas and technology.

By 2030, Australia is creating 1.2 million technology related jobs and space alone is going to generate 20,000 jobs by the end of the decade.

To cultivate the space sector and diversify from mining and resources, storytelling between companies and sectors is critical – to solve problems, to sell ideas, to build capacity.

The talent development journey starts with primary schools and generating interest in STEM by connecting young students with hands-on experiences and creative storytelling.

The Australian Space Agency recognise this and held a competition to name the yet-to-be-built lunar rover. Naming the rover makes it relatable – particularly to young people.

David Flanagan, the chair of AROSE, was vocal about his ambition to take this a step further and have a model of their lunar rover in every school, complete with its new name, to allow young people to see what Australia’s role in space exploration looks like and better visualise the opportunities from a STEM career.

The Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre also recognised this when it named its supercomputer Setonix, the scientific name for the quokka. While the technology was world-leading, naming it made it more than the sum of its circuitry – it created a personal connection to WA.

What lessons can we learn from other industries?

The other element to nurturing the space sector in WA is collaboration and the sharing of ideas that are not directly linked to space.

For example, Fugro didn’t start out in the space sector – it provides geotechnical, survey and geoscience services, and its focus on subsea operations led to the creation of a robotic command and control centre that operates over satellite communications.

SpAARC grew out of an opportunity for Fugro to apply its technology and expertise in the space sector.

Your story doesn’t have to be about space. In fact, focusing solely on space could be a distraction.

Daria Filichkina, a guest speaker who spoke on leveraging cross sector innovation through strategic communications, put it more bluntly – stop talking about space.

Ms Filichkina, the chief operation officer for AstroAgency in Scotland, said the one major blocker that repeatedly defeats cross industrial collaboration is language. It’s easy to get lost in the data or technical specifications– so talk about Earth, talk about the benefits of your business or technology, talk about the opportunities that you can bring.

Start conversations about needs and opportunities within your industry. What are the missing pieces? What do we do well? What are the challenges and opportunities? What are the problems to be solved?

At all levels and across all industries, articulating a vision and storytelling to solve problems remains a key part of generating interest and action – both commercially and for the broader community.

Australia has played a valuable role in space exploration since the 1950s and as NASA prepares to return to the moon, we’re right in the thick of it again.

Space exploration not only expands our knowledge of the universe and our place in it but it drives innovation. It is through collaboration and engaging the next generation that we can build our capacity in space and technology, and invest in our future.

Chris Leitch More from author

Chris Leitch is an experienced writer and online editor, proficient in producing website content and developing marketing and digital communications strategies and materials.

He puts his skills to work managing writing projects for Purple clients, in addition to working across many parts of the business helping to create content and shape digital marketing ideas.

After completing a Communications degree at Edith Cowan University, Chris cut his journalistic teeth at the NT News and worked at Community Newspapers, News Corp and Seven West Media before moving into marketing communications.

Away from the office, Chris’s main goals are spending time with his girls and finding time to hit the beach, improve his golf and dabble in fantasy sports. He spent many summers bowling inswingers for the Scarborough Cricket Club.

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