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Space museum for Australia

Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre

Mount Stromlo's Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre (AITC), one of the new facilities built in the wake of the 2003 bushfires. It will soon be joined by a new space and astronomy museum built in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution. Image courtesy ANU.

THE SIGNING OF AN AGREEMENT overnight in Washington DC between the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and The Australian National University represents a giant leap forward for efforts to build a national astronomy and space science museum at Mount Stromlo.

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Chubb AC and National Air and Space Museum Director General John ‘Jack’ Dailey signed the agreement. It sets out the first steps for co-operation that will support the development of a museum to tell the story of Australia’s contribution to space science and space technologies, and celebrate the special role Australian astronomers have played in the exploration of the cosmos.

The signing comes as the University prepares to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the iconic Mount Stromlo Observatory and will see a number of key curatorial staff from Washington come to Canberra in coming months to take part in a planning conference for the proposed museum.

“The National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC is one of the great science museums of the world. We want to build a museum that will inspire our young people, melding science, art, culture and history—and growing our already close relationship with the Smithsonian Institution will ensure that we create something wonderful for Australia,” Professor Chubb said.

Mount Stromlo bushfires

An aerial view of part of Mount Stromlo on fire during the 2003 bushfires. Image by Ray Brown.

Mount Stromlo Observatory was almost completely destroyed by the terrible 2003 bushfires that ravaged Canberra and surrounding regions. The ANU has been rebuilding the facility.

Professor Chubb said the museum would draw on the long history of co-operation between the United States and Australia in astronomy and space science, and the Smithsonian Institution has always been part of that cooperation.

“The Smithsonian Institution has been linked to Canberra since 1907, when Smithsonian Secretary Walcott provided expert advice on the establishment of the Commonwealth Solar Observatory at Mount Stromlo. The observatory was designed so that it would complement the research of Smithsonian astronomers in the Northern Hemisphere,” Professor Chubb said.

“In the 1990s a joint ANU-Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics (CfA) research team discovered the acceleration of the universal expansion of the Universe, one of the major mysteries of modern science. And both the ANU and the Smithsonian are foundation partners in the billion-dollar Giant Magellan Telescope, which will push the boundaries of science.”

“A museum on Mount Stromlo, which is an active hub of leading edge international astronomy and space research, will ensure that we inspire future generations of young Australians to look to the skies.”

Adapted from information issued by ANU.

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