Science and Engineering


27 September 2017

Australia’s plan to develop its own space agency was “fantastic” news, former NASA astronaut and Director of Crew and Mission Operations for Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program Chris Ferguson told a packed lecture theatre at QUT today.

Mr Ferguson shared with students and staff his career as a veteran of three Space Shuttle missions and commander of Atlantis in the final flight of the Space Shuttle program six years ago.

He also spoke about the next space frontier: getting us to Mars.

“It is the next logical step and it is within our grasp,” he said. “I don’t know if it will happen in my lifetime but it will be a human accomplishment of epic proportions.”

In an interview with the Faculty of Science and Engineering at QUT’s The Cube before his talk, Mr Ferguson said getting to Mars would be a “global effort” and with the recently announced news of an Australian space agency, that could include Australia.

He said he looked forward to hearing further details, with Australia “uniquely placed” to play an active future role and rich in science talent, including in Brisbane.

Boeing announced this week that its Brisbane team has developed a virtual reality (VR) system that provides high-resolution, interactive and real-time simulation training for the Boeing CST-100 Starliner, a commercial capsule spacecraft which will ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station and planned to launch next year, Mr Ferguson said.

He is working with NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, Johnson Space Center’s Engineering, Flight Crew and Mission Operations organisations and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program at Kennedy Space Center to ensure Boeing’s design for the craft supports NASA’s human rating requirements.

Mr Ferguson, whose background is in mechanical engineering, is also a retired US Navy captain and was a member of the “Top Gun” aviator program prior to joining NASA.

He shared with students that he failed on his first two attempts to enter the space program, urging them to be persistent to follow their career ambitions.

STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths), he said, offered “limitless possibilities”.

“If you take up a career in STEM, I promise you, you can do anything.”



Media contact:

Karen Milliner, QUT Media, 07 3138 1841 or 
After hours, Rose Trapnell, 0407 585 901 or

Former astronaut Chris Ferguson at QUT's The Cube.


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