Greeting visitors in the foyer of the Australian Space Agency Headquarters in Adelaide is a collection of fascinating space artefacts. Among them are Australia’s most recent astronauts - a stuffed toy koala and joey which have travelled to the International Space Station and back.
The toys were a door prize from the Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA) for an event at the 2016 International Astronautical Congress in Mexico. Won by a NASA employee, the koala duo were then taken on a secret mission to the ISS. In their one month in space, they travelled around 16 million kilometres.
NASA presented the koalas to the SIAA as a surprise gift at the Adelaide IAC 2017. Kirk A. Shireman, International Space Station Program Manager remarked, “These guys have travelled farther than any other koalas in history”.
It was at the opening ceremony of the Adelaide IAC that the Australian Government announced it would establish a Space Agency in 2018. This decision and the subsequent establishment of the SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre paved the way for an exciting new space age in Australia.