tv Witness LINKTV May 15, 2022 6:00pm-6:31pm PDT
ñvvvrzozozozozoñq ♪♪♪ ç■ç■ç■ñ■ñ■ñ%çwçwçwçw ♪♪♪ male: five, four, three, two, one, zero, lift-off. we have a lift-off. lift-off on apollo 11. michael brissenden: sixty years ago, the first human flights to space changed our perspective forever. pamela melroy: looking back and seeing that our earth was just a pale blue dot in a vast ocean of darkness, io think it's a perspective that i wishd the opportunity to see.
braducker: wheyou have an image of the earth and you realize every single thing you've known, studied, heard, read, met, learned about, is contained in that single image, it changes your world view. malcolm davis: it's the nature of human species. we're a exploratory creature since the stone age when we, you know, walked out of the cave and wondered what's over the nexvalley. we've always been explors, and we still alws will be explorers. we're never going to be content to just sit on earth. neil armstrong: that's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. michael: now, we're on the brink of another giant leap for mankind. steven freeland: essentially, our future as a humanity is inextricably tied to the way that we can continue to utilize space.
sarah pearce: i think what we'll see now, in the new path to return to the moon, is again that new technology, new services, new engineering, that we really can't predict when we set out to try and build it, but really will make our lives unrecognizable. michael: a new breed of entrepreneurs is looking to the stars. adam gilmour: we're looking to have a multi-billion dollar valuation in the company. my vision of space is, i think, you know, sooner or later there'll be, you know, millions of peoplliving off the planet. there'll be, you know, cits on the moon, cities on mars, and it'll just become a major part of the ecosystem. everything is going to be space. michael: in the 21st century, science fiction is becoming science fact faster than ever before. we're now on the cusp of a new industrial revolution that will change the way we live, the way we communicate, how we travel, and how we work. tonight on "four corners," we examine the extraordinary
opportunities and challenges of the new space age. ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ russell boyce: it's not just a boom, it's a frenzy. suddenly every government department is a space department in one way or another. all industry sectors somehow are dabbling in space and not just the technology sectors. the legal sectors, product management sectors. each university is suddenly a space university. it truly has become a frenzy. michael: for decades, space was a battleground of superpower ambition. in 1957, the soviet union successfully launched sputnik 1, the first human-made object to orbit the earth.
the space race became one of the defining themes of the cold war. brad: when we looked at the apollo era, nasa fell behind russia. russia was winning in lots of cases, so nasa said, "let's just skip ten steps and go here. let's go to the moon. let's skip all the stuff in between." michael: space has always had a powerful grip on the human imagination. the apollo missions and the moon landings inspired a whole new generation. buzz aldrin: beautiful view. neil: isn't that something! magnificent sight out here. buzz: magnificent desolation. michael: in 1969, pam melroy was one of the millions of kids who watched the moon landing. pamela: and at tt moment id to be an astronaut. pamela: discovery's commander, pam melroy. michael: her ambition took her all the way to the top of the nasa space program.
pamela: i flew in space three times including my last flight where i commanded a shuttle mission to the international space station. pamela: houston discovery, i've a big loop for both control teams. pamela: the overall feeling is how gorgeous the earth is and it's dynamic. it's rolling by underneath you. you get a sunrise or a sunset every 45 minutes and you just can't believe you go completely around everything--everything that we know, every ece of music, every person you could meet, you go completely around it in 90 minutes. michael: for more than 50 years, the rush to the stars has been limited to nations with vast resources. until no male: the cost is really plummeting because private companies are making it efficient. the things that used to be a billion and a half dollars are now $100 million, you know, prices are literally plummeting by a tenth of the price, a hundredth of the price, it used to be.
and simply because it's cheaper, we can do it. brad: and i like to point to india, for instance. their mission cost, i think, just under $100 million, which is still really expensive. male: do you copy? female: yes, yes, yes, i copy. i'm detached. brad: the movie, "gravity," with sandra bullock and george clooney, cost $120 million. it is now cheaper to go into space than make a movie about going into space. jonathan mcdowell: the old saying, right, was the way to make a small fortune in space was to start off with a big one. but actually now, about a third of all space activity is commercial, right? you've got about a third military, a third civilian, like nasa, and a third commercial. so it's really big business. ♪♪♪ michael: arguably, few people have supercharged human space ambition and changed what is now possible more than elon musk. the billionaire founder of paypal and tesla has moved
aggressively into space. he believes humans will be more than just space tourists. he has plans to settle people on mars, and he says we will inevitably become a multi-planet species. elon musk: fundamentally, the future is vastly more exciting and interesting if we're a spacefaring civilization and a multi-planet species than if we're not. it--you wanna be inspired by things. you wanna wake up in the morning and think, "the future's gonna be great." and that's what being a spacefaring civilization's all about. it's about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. and i can't think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars. jonathan: elon's not the first billionaire to try and get into the space business from, you know, dot-com money in the '90s or a lot of people who did that. he was just the only one, so far, who had the stamina to see rocket after rocket blow up and still not give up.
and so you know, it was a rough first few years, but he stuck with it until he had something that worked, and i think that's the distinguishing feature, is that he has both the vision but also, if you like, the guts to push forward and not give up when--at the first hurdle. male: lift-off of falcon. michael: elon musk's big breakthrough came with the development of relatively cheap reusable rockets. male: look at that. elon: at's unreal. female: three, two, one. michael: two years ago, musk's company, spacex, successfully launched what it calls its falcon heavy rocket. the falcon heavy is a powerful reusable rocket that can carry the world's biggest payloads into space. elon: it was super-stressful, but it worked. male: stand by for main engine cutoffs. anna moore: elon musk challenged the status quo on how we access space and said, "no, it doesn't have to be done
the way we have been doing it for years." we can make it cheaper. we can make it more available to anyone. and honestly, i think a lot of people really doubted that was every gonna happen. and he proved them wrong, and so it's been-- it's been a hu catalyst. michael: the splashdown of the spacex dragon manned flight this month was another game-changing moment in the history of space exploration. male: splashdown. male: welcome back to planet earth and thanks for flying spacex. jonathan: but has a bigger significance, i think, that it's saying that low earth orbit's no longer the frontier, that we can focus at nasa on further horizons like the moon and mars, and for low earth orbit, yeah, that's just a trucking company. spacex can do that. female: ignition, lift-off of the falcon 9-- brad: spacex and falcon heavy and falcon 9 have not just changed human exploration but space missions as well.
it is literallhundredsof mis cheaper to launch it. nasa builds space telescopes, something i've worked on, and you don't launch on nasa rockets, you launch on spacex 'cause it is cheaper, and that means what used to be the cost of two missions is now four missions. and so once you can do four missions, the science and research accelerates so now then you can go do eight. but there's this multiplying factor that's happening. michael: elon musk's most ambitious rocket of all is this. it's called the starship, a cheap steel tube that can carry a huge payload. this month, it made a test flight to 150 meters before successfully coming back to earth. jonathan: starship is the next-generation rocket, and it looks just like, you know, a 1950s science fiction rocketship.
if it works, it could be a further revolution in the cost of getting to orbit. rapid reuse, very huge payloads going into space, being able to carry very large numbers of people into space. he needs this if he wants to settle mars in the long run, and--but, you know, it's been a bit of a rocky road so far. he'slown up quite a few test articles. richard branson: having maybe something really sexy. female: three, two, one, release, release, release. male: fire. male: fire! michael: spacex isn't the only company developing cheaper space transport. male: welcome to the club, astronauts. michael: richard branson has plans to develop commercial spacecraft for space tourism. jeff bezos: we've been working on this lander for three years. michael: and amazon founder, jeff bezos, is also developing rockets to carry humans into space and spacecraft to deliver cargo to the moon. jeff: we have here as an example, a very large rover and by the way, even though that's a large rover, this vehicle can
land four of them simultaneously on the surface of the moon. brad: it isn't just spacex. there's other companies like blue origin coming online as well, private companies and smaller groups in australia, or rocket labs in new zealand, for instance, that is all making that cost cheaper. i like to think of it's like airplane travel. we spent the longest time having one costly airline, but now we have a bunch of budget carriers that are making it effective. adam: we live on this little dot and what's out there is just massive, and i wanna explore what's out there and see it. michael: australian entrepreneur, adam gilmour, is building one of those budget carriers. adam: all right, guys, we're going soon. michael: five years ago, he cashed in a lucrative career as an international banker for the potential he saw in space. adam: this rocket engine, it sits up the top of the vehicle and it's the final engine that puts the satellites into space so you're gonna see a 20-second burn of this engine where we're making sure that the fuel's burning properly, the materials
in the rocket engine are operating correctly, and everything else is smooth. male: and then a burn duration of 20 seconds-- michael: at a secret location near the gold coast, "four corners" filmed gilmour's technicians in the final stages of testing a new hybrid rocket that he hopes will see his company become australia's first multi-billion-dollar launch company. adam: all right, cool. good job. adam: there's a lot of things that will happen in the next 5 or 10 years that will set the scene for the next 10 or 20 afterwas. adam: i think we're going to expand out because we can. i think because we can get out of this earth and there's so many planets and asteroids and everything just in the solar system, it is inevitable. it's the same reason why, you know, humans have colonized the earth so greatly. i think we'll do it to space.
if you have the access, then we'll do it. michael: like almost everyone in this business, adam gilmour has grand ambitions. but for the moment, he's working towards cashing in on the fastest-growing area of one of the world's fastest-growing industries. adam: when are you gonna start putting low-grade hydrogen peroxide to it? adam: the biggest thing that's been changing is miniaturization technologies has been shrinking satellites and what that's done is make it incredibly cheap to build a satellite and to launch a satellite, and that's why our rockets are good because our rockets can take up very small satellites. michael: australia has a long connection to space missions. tidbinbilla is just a small part of nasa's global space infrastructure. everything from the pictures of armstrong's first steps on the moon to communications with deep space probes and rovers on mars have passed through here.
brad: the nasa deep space tracking station in tidbinbilla is, you know, just outside canberra. it's essentially the ears of space, and if we don't have that capability, we can't get the data back from mars, we can't communicate with spacecraft, and the second problem we have in this is we're all in this globe that spins. you can't just have one point on earth that talks with everything in space. you need these things spread around the world, and australia, because of that geographical position, we're in the middle between the us and europe, and we're in the southern hemisphere, provides that other ears that you can't get one side of the world. and nasa and europe identified australia, you know, 50, michael: australia also has some unique advantages in the spe sector: our geographical position, our wide open spaces, and relatively low light pollution. but for all that, we have come to the new space rush a little late. it was only two years ago that we joined much of the rest
of the developed world and established a national space agency. male: declare the australian space agency here in adelaide open. michael: why did it take so long? karen andrews: i think it was a lack of understanding by many, many people of what space is all about and the opportunities that it can present. so i think it took a little bit of time for people to understand the significance of space, the space industry, the space sector, to australia. there's opportunities for us to grow our businesses, there's opportunities for us to create jobs here, and there's opportunities in space for our everyday lives to become that much easier, that more--that much more simpler. so yes, there are some opportunities for us, and we should grasp them with both hands. malcolm: the australian space agency was really important and a very positive step because what it does, it gives us a policy organization within government whose job it is to help grow the australian commercial space sector.
♪♪♪ michael: right now, the space world is a very exciting field to be in, full of boffins who have spent years working toward the moment we're now living. brad tucker, an astrophysicist at the anu's mount stromlo observatory, is one of them. brad: i love doing it. i love talking about it. i think people feel that. and i love talking about it because it is so now tangible. in the '90s, it wasn't tangible. you know, yeah, things happened and there was things happening, and it was cool, all right, but that's it. but it feels so real now. it feels so accessible. ♪♪♪ michael: when people like brad tucker talk about how space will change our lives in the near future, the big focus is on
cheap global broadband that will drive even more rapid technological development. adam: the real big market that's developing now is broadband internet from space. there's three or four companies that are launching thousands of satellites into low earth orbit that are gonna beam down broadband all over the earth, and the speeds are, you know, two to three times faster than the nbn. brad: it is the big project that lots of companies are doing, oneweb, starlink, amazon. the fact that, for a fraction of the cost of the nbn, we can get terabyte per second downloads, that transforms the way we work. and we're not talking about in cities. you can be in the middle of a rural town in australia and have the same connection speed as a city and better than what we have right now. you know, you can only imagine that's gonna transform.
the fact that we're gonna get gps accurate to the scale of centimeters, we're not even talking about tens of meters. the scale of centimeters means, you know, the data for use for farmers and tracking and navigation is an order of magnitude better. russell: we're getting into the age where it's not just people that are being connected, it's machines. it's business to business, machine to machine, machine to person, and the implications for that are enormous. who can say exactly what they are? what we'll see unfold in the next small number of years will probably be quite staggering. male: the actual deployment of the bowtie antenna-- michael: at the university of new south wales campus in canberra, russell boyce and his team are working with defense on research to develop small next-generation satellites for potential intelligence gathering. russell: if we can have a lot of these in orbit, they'll be able to bounce signals from one to the next to the next.
russell: yeah, it's not just a boom, it's a frenzy. australia has, by far, the fastest-growing space sector in the world, the fastest rate of establishment of startups of any space economy anywhere in the world. michael: in june, they launched the latest of their so-called cube satellites. russell: we can fly these small space missions to demonstrate the art of the possible. that's what we're doing in collaboration with the air force. that's what we seek to do for government, for industry partners. our vision is to be a significant contributor to this development of networked, intellint, constellation capabilities. and every mission that we fly is a step towards that. michael: satellite technology is evolving fast, and australian scientists are at the forefront of the new developments that will deliver a huge array of applications.
sarah: and when you think about the first satellites and the size that they needed to be in order to be able to get these sorts of images of the earth, now this is really a whole new world that we're in with these cube sats, very small satellites, very miniaturized and of course, you know, cheaper and quicker to get up. but it will let us look at things like ground cover across australia so for example, deforestation or flooding. it will let us see through smoke and see what's happening in bush fires, and it will let us look at how clouds are formed, for example, and see the creation of cyclones. ♪♪♪ michael: with more and more countries now launching their own technology, low earth orbit is fast beming a very crowded space. anna: there are still tens of thousands of satellites planned to go up in sort of like nets around the earth and they're a problem if they're not monitored. if they're in very low earth orbits, sort of the 200 to 300 k, they will decay very quickly,
and so their life span's only a year or two, so the chances of them actually causing any trouble is not very high. russell: if you put too many in orbit, it is a challenge. that's a daily operational challenge for the world in operating the space technologies that we do depend upon. there is a growing area called space traffic management. it's an activity being built upon space situational awareness, led by the us, but australia is a key player as are many other nations in understanding what's going on up there, keeping track of it, predicti collisions, and trying to avoid it. steven: if you think about the time from when sputnik went up in 1957 to now, the world has probably launched let's say 6,000 to 7,000 objects into space. if you just take the well-publicized plans of one or two or three companies, we're talking about an additional, let's say, 80,000.
we've had collisions in space, we've had near misses in space. everything that's in space above about, let's say, 500 or 600 kilometers above mean sea level is traveling at, you know, very, very fast speeds, depending on where they are, but maybe somewhere between 7 to 15 kilometers a second. so, even something the size of a small bolt will destroy anything it hits, of course, cascading into more debris. ♪♪♪ brad: accidents will happen, mistakes will happen. the more we grow on that dependency, the more those things will happen. we will have space disasters for tourists. we will have satellites colliding and triggering geopolitical tensions. that is just gonna happen. so it's the need for society, the need for people, to make sure we put a check and balance on what that possibility is,
and have our policy makers and scientists think of those other things to make sure we can control it. michael: space analyst malcolm davis has been one of those focused on the potential benefits of space exploration. but he is also well aware of the potential dangers, including the militarization of space. malcolm: you are seeing a recognition now that space is contested. it's not this serene peaceful sanctuary that sits untouched by terrestrial geopolitics. instead, it's a war-fighting domain where you have major powers like ina and russia developing counterspace capabilities, ti-satellite weapons, designed to deny the us and its allies, including australia, access to critical space support in a future conflict. michael: the more dependent we become on satellite technology, the more vulnerable we are. malcolm: an attack on our critical satellites could cause
much of our society to grind to a halt. and then if we can't recover that effectively, you're in, sort of like, a mad max world where everything falls apart and our economy collapses. brad: shock and awe as we saw in the iraq invasion will not be what it was. you disable a country's satellite network, you disable the country. that's a simple fact. and you can then see how some superpowers, some of the other countries, you change a--you change a policy, you change a government, all of a sudden you don't wanna behave with your friends or your enemies, and you can isolate, you can block off a country fr accessing the other technology in the world and that's how you enclose them and that's how you control them. and this is not just these dreamt-up ideas. people are doing this already. michael: russell boyce believes it's essential for australia's security to be self-liant in space. russell: it's extremely important to have our own sovereign control of satellites.