Andrea takes on the final frontier
Andrea Boyd is a driven individual. She’s already worked and studied in 75 countries – picking up multiple languages along the way – and now she can be heard in space.
Andrea is the European Space Agency’s (ESA) flight controller for the International Space Agency with the job of liaising with astronauts as they circle the earth.
“It’s not quite like in the movies,” says Andrea. “In reality the International Space Station has five mission control centres around the world and I’m the voice for Europe – with a very Adelaide accent.”
It’s the dream job for the mechatronic engineering graduate who spent 10 years volunteering in space-related roles around the world before joining ESA in 2012.
Ironically Andrea’s previous paid work was just about as far from space as you can get – deep underground at the giant BHP Billiton Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine in South Australia.
But she says her job as a fly-in fly-out mining engineer in the mine control room was similar.
“They’re both extreme industries with complex control rooms, but actually the control room for the International Space Station is easier," Andrea says.
“When anything broke above ground or underground at the mine they called me as it was my job to go and fix it. On the space station we call astronauts who do this.
“I miss the desert and getting my hands dirty at the mines but on the other hand, living in Europe, I can drive to five countries in under an hour, so that’s also fun.”
Based in Cologne, Germany, the flight operations engineer has used her mining experience to help write a book on the feasibility of mining in space titled Space mineral resources: a global assessment of the challenges and opportunities.
While she admits that’s still a long way off, next to her office a 34-metre diameter dome is being built to simulate a future moon base.
Although Andrea is based on the other side of our planet, she is using her contacts and influence to help put Australia in the space race.
She was part of a team which successfully bid for Adelaide to host the International Astronautical Congress in September 2017, knocking out stiff competition from the US and Germany.
This is the biggest conference ever secured by South Australia, attracting more than 3000 leaders in space from across the globe.
The University of Adelaide is hosting a major student pre-event – the Space Generation Congress – in the week leading up to the main conference.
“There will be a myriad of concurrent events as well as talks, excursions, interactive programs and opportunities for students, including a free exhibition day,” says Andrea.
She is also lobbying hard for Australia to follow Canada and become a non-European cooperating member of the European Space Agency.
“At just $20 million a year, which we pay to ourselves, ESA membership would create space engineering jobs, an instant customer base, and send Australian-built hardware and software to space,” she says.
“It’s a 10-year renewable agreement making it immune to political cycles, thus creating a sustainable space industry in Australia.
“Many of us have been to Canberra to talk to politicians who are starting to understand the benefits, the South Australian Government is very supportive and we have some very serious policy meetings again soon.
“Watch this space!”
Story by Ian Williams