Opening Remarks

Dr Peter Nattrass

The Right Honourable Lord Mayor of Perth

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FULL TEXT: Welcome Guy Murphy, president of the Mar Society, and Dr Vadim Gushin, all the way from Moscow and Ray Priskich and ladies and gentlemen here today. It is always a pleasure to welcome anyone to this wonderful city that we’re so proud of, and when it includes so many of you from over east and especially from Moscow that pleasure is even more so.  To those of you from overseas may I remind you that you are now in the most isolated capital city in the world, and if we were drill a hole through the core of the earth from Perth we’d end up at Washington DC, but isolation I guess is a very relative term, when the object of your attention here this weekend is some 56 million km away from Perth and in that perspective, a visit here to this city is not too remote after wall, and it certainly shouldn’t be too difficult to come to a beautiful city like Perth because we’re very proud that last year that widely respected magazine the Economist voted Perth the third most friendliest city in the world. In the same year the widely read international magazine US Travel and Leisure voted Perth the friendliest city in the world, and in the same year it was voted internationally one of the 10 cleanest cities in the world, so we’re very proud indeed of our city and we’re delighted that you have come over here for this conference.

Western Australians have maintained a special interest in space travel dating right back to 1962 I think it was, when John Glenn flew around in Friendship 7. I was brought up in that era and I can remember the Mercury capsule being brought here and travelling along the streets of Perth, and certainly I can remember the Sputnik first going over and Yuri Gagarin. What a contribution Yuri Gagarin made!  While Alan Shepard was the first in space to go up and down that was nothing when Yuri Gagarin was the first to go around, and what a tragic end to life he had after having achieved that.

But when John Glenn went over we all got out there and turned all our lights on, every conceivable light in Perth was turned on.   The Lord Mayor of the day got into a lot of strife because when it was suggested that the people of Perth turn on their lights he said ‘what a terrible waste of money’. His name was Harry Howard and he said what a terrible waste of money and the media went mad saying ‘what a silly thing to say’. Anyway, when John Glenn came back to earth, he had a ticket tape parade in New York.  The mayor of new York invited Harry Howard to go over to the ticket tape parade, and he got into more trouble because her said yes.

And again 17 years late Western Australia again felt connected with space travel because Skylab crashed into a very remote little town, or just outside a remote little town called Balladonia, and I can remember jimmy cater ringing up the pub in Balladonia to apologise for Skylab.  And the subsequent to that the US ambassador brought Miss American out to Perth and they drove out to Balladonia to see where Skylab landed, so we do have an association with space travel and we feel a connection.

And again in 1998 when John Glenn went up in the Discovery a new generation of Western Australians enthusiastically embraced space travel.  I can remember that occasion well because we all went up to a prearranged place up near Kings Park and there was going to be a direct broadcast between me as mayor and John Glenn, and we had that broadcast. Immediately after all the television crews were there, and Channel 7 here in Perth had asked me 5 minutes before would I come on and do a little interview after I had spoken with John Glenn and I said sure, but after I had spoken to John Glenn this lone television man with a camera, no support crew, or he didn’t seem to have a support crew, came up to me and said would I do an interview with him? and he had an American accent and I said look I’m sorry I, I can’t I’m already committed, and he said ‘oh, ok’, and I said why don’t you get (I was with) Julie Bishop, a Perth girl, she’s standing over there doing nothing and she speaks very well, so this lone camera man interviewed Julie Bishop and 5 minutes later her mobile phone went and it was a friend of hers in Times Square, New York, She had appeared on that great screen in Times Square and I’d just done this little interview in Perth.

But on that occasion in 1998, it was a new generation of Western Australians who came out and turned on the lights for John Glenn, and they were a new generation because they were more informed and a more sophisticated generation because they had grown up with an  understanding of space travel, aided and assisted by all the modern technology we have today, such as that which this school of Trinity is so blessed as having, where students and academics can come together at an equal level and have a role in being involved in international astronomical events and also contribute in their own small away in space research, and indeed I understand that is happening with the Starchaser Marsupial, the rover, and also with the European space agency ground stations coming along at New Norcia

With Mars closer now than its ever been over the last 60,000 years, it nice to know that fuel consumption is a major factor in there now being four space probes now heading toward Mars, one due there on Christmas day this year, one from Europe, 2 from the United States and one from Japan, so this also indicate that space travel is now very much an  multinational affair.

So we’re delighted here in Perth that the clear skies, the open spaces, what is apparently termed radio quiet and the very sparse regional populations in Western Australia create the ideal conditions that attract astronomers and space researchers for the city that we’re so proud of. So we extend all of your from the east our welcome; we’re proud of our city  and we hope that while you’re here you have time for more earthly pursuits than thinking about mars and you get an opportunity to go to some of the attractions that we think make Perth unique.  Most of all, may your visit here be both rewarding and enjoyable, and particularly when you go back to Moscow (Mr Gushin), we hope that you take with you very fond memories of your stay here in Perth, memories that will last a lifetime.