Celebrating 40 years of Australia-US Earth observations

The Australian Government today celebrated its 40-year partnership with the United States on Earth observations with the commissioning of new artwork on an antenna at the Alice Springs satellite ground station.

While celebrations with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) kick off in Alice Springs today, Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan highlighted the value of Earth observations to Australia.

“Not only does satellite data contribute billions of dollars to the Australian economy, the size of our continent means we rely on it for a range of critical tasks such as responding to natural disasters, monitoring land use, developing agriculture and ensuring our water security,” Minister Canavan said.

“In 1979, Australia joined the United States’ Landsat Earth observation program, playing a strategic role by hosting the ground station site in Alice Springs. Since then, we have continued to support all Landsat missions, and we are committed to supporting future generations of Landsat satellites under this program.”

CLP Senator for the Northern Territory Dr Sam McMahon said Alice Springs’ location was integral to the success of the ground station.

“Being based in Central Australia means the ground station can provide satellite reception coverage over the entire continent, and allows NASA to send signals to current and future Landsat satellites via this facility,” Senator McMahon said.

“The strength of our partnership with the US is symbolised by this beautiful new artwork by Rosaline Louise Oren, who was born on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and is a registered member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.”

Director of the United States Geological Survey Dr James Reilly emphasised the value of Australia’s satellite ground station to the U.S. and its international partners.

“Alice Springs is a critical part of the USGS’s global Landsat satellite ground station network, as one of only three stations outside the U.S. that provides essential operational mission support capabilities to our Landsat satellites. It is an integral component to ensure we can capture the most comprehensive and dynamic array of remote images of our planet,” Dr Reilly said.  

“The Landsat program has long provided the information necessary for governments and communities around the world to make informed decisions for land and water management and to reduce risks from a wide range of natural disasters. I’m really proud of this enduring relationship between Australia and the U.S. and I’m excited to see it grow further.”

Geoscience Australia’s Chief Executive Officer Dr James Johnson said the ground station in Alice Springs was also built on a partnership with local traditional owners.

“This ground station is sited on land owned by the Centre for Appropriate Technology, a not-for-profit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander company that works across central and northern Australia. Three years ago, we celebrated the partnership with local traditional owners by painting the surface of an antenna with designs from the ‘Caterpillar Tracks’ artwork by Arrernte artist Roseanne Kemarre Ellis,” Dr Johnson said.

“Today we’re unveiling a new artwork on the ground station’s second antenna, which is based on an Owinja, or ‘Star Quilt’, from the Native American Lakota Sioux tradition gifted to Geoscience Australia by the USGS as a symbol of partnership and goodwill between the two organisations.”

More information about the ground stations, along with photos and video, is available here: http://www.ga.gov.au/news-events/features/40-years-of-landsat-in-australia

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