Everyone who joins the Australian Space Agency gets a Space Agent number. Dr Megan Clark is Space Agent One.
Megan became the first Head of the Agency after leading the 2017 government review into Australia’s space capabilities. Her mission was to build the team, establish partnerships with other agencies and companies, and secure funding to support the industry.
“Australia has this amazing entrepreneurial spirit,” Megan says. “We wanted to capture that and bring that into Australia's space reputation around the world.”
Growing up in Perth just down the road from a CSIRO lab, Megan always dreamed of being a scientist. However, her school wasn’t very encouraging. “The career advice I had in high school was not to do science,” she says. “I decided not to listen.”
Instead, she studied geology and got a job in mining. At the time, women were not allowed to work underground and Megan narrowly avoided getting in trouble with the mines inspector. Megan enjoyed working outdoors and being at the site of new discoveries.
“We had a lot of fun running around in the bush,” she says. “It was the best discovery team in the world. They really valued research.”
Megan’s next move was into the world of finance. She spent a number of years in venture capital in Boston and Australia, looking for the next big thing to invest in. A vice-president role at BHP Billiton brought her back to the mining industry and then in 2014 Megan was tapped to become the next head of CSIRO.
“It’s not very often you get the chance to serve your nation,” she says.
Megan oversaw a number of major space projects during her time at CSIRO. One was helping secure funding for the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder. Another was working with NASA to upgrade the antenna network at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex.
Looking back at the first two years, Megan says seeing the Agency’s logo next to NASA’s at the Moon to Mars announcement is a proud memory. “There it was, alongside the NASA logo, and I thought – we’re going to the Moon, we’re going to Mars. It was a big moment.”
- Megan completed a Bachelor of Science majoring in Geology at the University of Western Australia in 1981.
- She then spent 15 years at Western Mining Corporation in a number of roles. During that time, she also completed her PhD at Queen’s University in Canada and raised her daughter, Erin, and son, Elliot, with her husband, Trent.
- Megan’s next move was to another country and a different industry. She spent the next few years in Boston working in venture capital before returning to Australia to work with the Rothschild bank.
- In 2003, Megan joined BHP Billiton as Vice-President of Technology. Later, she became their Vice-President of Health, Safety, Environment, Community and Sustainability.
- Then, in 2009, Megan was asked to be CSIRO’s new leader. She was the organisation’s Chief Executive for five years.
- After expanding CSIRO’s space research programs, Megan was asked to lead the government’s 2017 review into Australia’s space capabilities.
- In 2018, it was announced that Megan would lead the new Australian Space Agency. She served as the Agency’s Head for two and a half years.
- Megan was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2014 for her service to scientific research and innovation. In 2019 she was awarded the prestigious Australian Academy of Science Medal.
- She has also served as a non-executive director for Rio Tinto and CSL and as an advisory board member for the Bank of America.