Dr Sarah Cannard

Dr Sarah Cannard

Shooting for the moon

Dr Sarah Cannard

I never thought I’d wake up every morning and get to help build Australia’s first ever lunar rover.

I’ve been passionate about space for as long as I can remember, but Australia didn’t have a united and thriving space industry until 2018 when the Australian Space Agency was established. Now I’m the lead engineer working to send a rover to the moon and supporting Australia’s world leading space research – it’s a dream come true.

I grew up in country South Australia, in Berri and then Murray Bridge. When I was five or six, I remember thinking space was this big, amazing thing beyond our reach. Then I learned that we can actually send robots and people up there to work and live, and it blew my mind.

"At 10 years old I remember telling my parents I wanted to work in space. They suggested that maybe I should be an engineer – I thought ‘that sounds good… I wonder what an engineer is!’"

It was an easy decision to study at the University of Adelaide because Andy Thomas, Australia’s first member of NASA’s elite astronaut corps, went there. I was following in the footsteps of one of my heroes.

Sarah at her graduation in 2011. PhD (Mech Eng)

Sarah at her graduation in 2011. PhD (Mech Eng).

"I’m glad I did because I loved every minute of university life at UoA - from learning about astrophysics in the classroom, to sitting on the Barr Smith Lawns with my friends at lunch, to the legendary engineering pub crawls across Adelaide."

I even joined the UoA Hockey Club and loved it so much that I ended up playing for the UoA Blacks for about 18 years! I will never forget the camaraderie. Travelling around Australia with the Intervarsity team to compete in the University Games was one of the highlights of my time at university, and I still play hockey now.

But university was also very challenging for me. I had to work very hard – hours and hours of study – to get up to the same level as everyone else.

Sarah at Autonomous Warrior 2018

Sarah at Autonomous Warrior 2018.

Since finishing my PhD, I’ve worked for an amazing Australian company, Nova Systems, on so many cool projects, like helping a Japanese Space Exploration Agency spacecraft return a capsule containing an asteroid sample to the Woomera Test Range right here in South Australia.

Funnily enough, I now work right across the road from the University of Adelaide – at the SmartSat CRC headquarters and next to the Australians Space Agency at Lot Fourteen. There are so many possibilities for the future of the growing Australian space sector and I’m very fortunate to be able to do the work I love, in a city I love.

"There’s a role for everyone in space, so follow that passion because now you can do it in Australia, right here in Adelaide."

Space has been my passion for my entire life. Today’s young people have so many opportunities available to them now as Australia’s space sector gains momentum. My dream is to help put Australia’s space sector on the international stage and to inspire the next generation, and that really gets my heart pumping.

Sarah was the winner of the Female Space Leader of the Year at the 2022 Australian Space Awards

Sarah was the winner of the Female Space Leader of the Year at the 2022 Australian Space Awards.

Dr Sarah Cannard is Lead Engineer AROSE Trailblazer Lunar Rover, Nova Systems | Industry Director at SmartSat CRC | Chair of Aurora Space Cluster.

She graduated from the University of Adelaide with a BSc (Physics, 2003), B Eng (Mechanical, 2003) and a PhD (Mech Eng, 2011).