Women in Space - Impacting the World and Beyond Partner - The University of Adelaide
ADCSA is thrilled to partner with The University of Adelaide for the Women In Space - Impacting the World and Beyond. Our partnerships amplify the incredible impact that organisation's and their people make within society - reminding Australians how good we can be when we are at our best.
Launching the careers of women in space at the University of Adelaide
Whether developing AI systems that can land autonomous spacecraft or growing plants to feed future astronauts, these women from the University of Adelaide are on a mission to make their mark on the space industry.
Image Associate Professor Jenny Mortimer with samples of locally found duckweed which she is studying to turn into food for the future. Picture by Naomi Jellicoe, The Advertiser
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR JENNY MORTIMER
Associate Professor of Plant Synthetic Biology, University of Adelaide
Leader of the California-based Joint BioEnergy Institute Plant Systems Biology Group.
What will astronauts eat on Mars?
Humanity has big plans for space: a new international space station orbiting the moon within five years; a lunar settlement this decade; and a crewed mission to Mars by 2040. Figuring out how crews of space explorers will access fresh, healthy food is the real challenge.
Cue Associate Professor Jenny Mortimer. She is part of a team designing plants to support astronauts on long-term space missions.
Her work focuses on finding the ideal plant architecture, nutrition and stress tolerance levels to produce species that will not only survive but thrive in the unique conditions of space.
Beyond plants for food, her research has also highlighted the opportunity to use space crops for pharmaceuticals and biomaterials on demand.
“In space, where sustainability and resource limitation is paramount, plants have enormous potential for producing nutritious food, pharmaceuticals, and biomaterials. Plants could also assist with air regeneration, water recycling, and astronaut mental health. To make this a reality, substantial advances in plant design are needed.”
Image Georgia Dallimore Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical & Aerospace) (Honours) and Bachelor of Mathematical and Computer Sciences student
Georgia Dallimore - A future face of space
With a passion for rocketry and spacecraft, aerospace engineering felt like the right choice for Georgia Dallimore. This decision has led to some incredible opportunities for her within the flourishing space industry in South Australia.
Last year she started work as a Space Communicator at the Australian Space Discovery Centre, where she is passing on her passion for space to the public.
She is also using her engineering skills as an intern at Fleet Space Technologies, working on some transformative projects.
“This field rewards curiosity and utilises teamwork to overcome unique challenges while answering some of the biggest questions about our world and beyond. From my experience so far, there is never a dull day!
Working in the space industry has exposed me to incredible processes like designing hardware for extreme environments like the Moon and the journey of satellites from manufacture to launch. I’ve learnt so much from the amazing people who help make this successful!” Georgia Dallimore
Sofia is a University of Adelaide PhD candidate at the Australian Institute for Machine Learning, focusing on the research and application of computer vision for spacecraft guidance and navigation.
The Australian Institute for Machine Learning (AMIL) PhD candidate, University of Adelaide
A trailblazer with a clear vision
Sofia McLeod spends a great deal of time thinking about space exploration.
The Australian Institute for Machine Learning (AIML) PhD candidate is researching ways to build an AI system that can safely land an autonomous spacecraft on a distant planetary or asteroid surface guided by visual input from a single event camera.
Inspired by the workings of the human eye, an event camera is a dynamic vision sensor where each pixel works independently to report changes in brightness as they occur. Whereas a typical camera sensor—like the one in your smartphone—records numerous whole image frames every second, even if there’s nothing new happening in view.
Because it only sends new data when conditions change, an event camera system is more data efficient, lightweight, and may use less power — all things that are vital in successful space missions, where resources are precious and limited.
Space exploration is an area currently seeing rapid development in autonomous technology. In April 2021, NASA completed the first powered controlled extraterrestrial aircraft flight as part of its Mars 2020 rover mission. The long distance from Earth meant the craft had to operate with a high degree of autonomy.
“If you're looking at Ingenuity, which is the drone that’s now on Mars, the delay is approximately 20 minutes for human interaction,” McLeod says, referring to the maximum return radio signal transmission time due to the 50 - 200 million kilometre distance between Earth and Mars.
"We need both the rover and Ingenuity to be able to do this navigation by themselves, so they can avoid obstacles on their own. You have to remember that if a robot gets stuck or breaks down, we can’t go to Mars to repair it.”
Computer vision in space isn’t just limited to autonomous landing, but has a range of potential applications.
“Ideally, we want to design unmanned spacecraft to refuel satellites when they run out of power. To do this you’ll need computer vision to know that you’re aligned perfectly with the object you're trying to dock with,” Sofia McLeod