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Inquiry call for Australia's $4.5 million space blunder

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PRESS RELEASE* Peter McGauran MP J a u S & m Shadow Minister for Science and Technology

Federal Member for Gippsland .


An official probe is necessary to investigate why a $4.5 million Australian space experiment was aborted mid-flight by astronauts aboard the U.S. space shuttle Discovery, which touched down last Thursday.

The Shadow Minister for Science and Technology, Peter McGauran, today blamed amateurish planning by Government officials for the blunder.

Mr McGauran said officers of the Department of Industry, Technology and Commerce, had been warned repeatedly by space scientists the shuttle flight would be unfit for the locally- built space telescope and later missions would be more appropriate.

"But Department officials rejected the advice," Mr McGauran said.

Mr McGauran said Australia's new generation ultra-violet Endeavour space telescope, which was eight years in the planning and heralded as a vital step in capturing a $150 million local market in satellite services, had been built by Canberra-based company, Auspace.

"The project soaked up $4.5 million in taxpayers' funds and was designed to prove an Australian product could meet the rigorous requirements for operation in space," he said.

"But in hijacking the project for the fanfare it caused, Senator Button bungled the whole initiative."

Mr McGauran said the telescope had been designed to make deep space observations but the shuttle's flight plan tilted the telescope earthwards.

"Sensors detected too much heat and light reflected from the earth's surface and refused to allow the telescope's lid to open for fear of damaging the lens," he said.

"The NASA astronauts monitoring the telescope lodged in the shuttle's cargo-bay were forced to terminate the project.

"As a result, the decade long hopes of the local industry to prove its capabilities to the international space market have been dashed and the telescope remains unproven."

Mr McGauran said the inquiry should allow for an open hearing into why the Government had overridden the advice of the space science community and what pressures local NASA officials had been placed under to make room for the telescope on the Discovery's voyage.

For further information, contact Peter McGauran: (03) 6144 203 or (03) 347 0164 Sunday, February 2 ,1 9 9 2