NT News: Space port written in the Yolngu stars

Arnhem Space Yolngu

The stories of the stars have been told for generations in East Arnhem Land but after significant investment from the private and public sector the Yolngu stories will be explored with modern science.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner believes the Arnhem Space Centre will inspire generations of Territorians to seek out, learn and understand the universe above.

After visiting the site, located outside Nhulunbuy, on Thursday Mr Gunner announced a further $5m investment in the Arnhem Space Centre, where Yolngu people, Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA) and NASA have been working together to construct the Territory’s first space port.

“The Gumatj are intimate with the universe above. It is not surprising to me that one of Australia’s first commercial spaceports is under way here, on Yolngu land, home of the planet’s original astronomers,” Mr Gunner said.

Gumatj Corporation chairman Djawa Yunupingu said the stars were the stories of his ancestors.

“We don’t go in the ground when we leave this place, we go up there to look down on this place,” My Yunupingu said.

“This is about our stories and their stories and learning together. The space centre is important for my people because when the mine leaves we want jobs here, we want to stay on our Country. This is a chance to do that and do it right this time.”

For the Gumatj Corporation, the Arnhem Space Centre is an opportunity to teach people about Yolngu culture, something that was predicted by Elders long before NASA was talked about.

Mr Yunupingu said his father painted astronauts coming to Yolngu land back in the 1960s and the artwork was waiting to be displayed at the culture centre just a few kilometres from the new space centre.

ELA plans to include a visitors centre where the history of the stars can be displayed alongside new knowledge.

ELA chief executive Carley Scott said this was a step towards a bright future for the people in Nhulunbuy, East Arnhem Land, the Northern Territory and Australia.

“This is an exciting and significant time, the project is a drawcard for the region and will bring not just employment but education and tourism as well,” Ms Scott said.

“As part of NASA’s education program, we will be seeing American space agency engineers and scientists mingle with local Northern Territory children, showing them ways to chase their dreams and reach for the stars.”

The Australian space launch market has an estimated value of $US930m over the next decade, which Mr Gunner said the Northern Territory was well placed to capitalise on.

Source: NT News by Amanda Parkinson