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Professor Phil Bland

Planetary scientist

Phil Bland

Professor Phil Bland got switched on to spaceflight when he was about seven or eight and the Voyager space probes were launched into space. It’s still one of his earliest memories.

Now he’s the director of a space and planetary science research centre. Phil and his team of scientists and engineers are currently working on a small spacecraft project called the Binar Space Program. “We’ve just flown our first satellite in Earth orbit. Our goal is to advance that capability to the point where we can fly a Moon mission in three to four years’ time.”

The galaxy’s the limit

Other highlights in his space career include looking for impact craters in the Pampas of Argentina, as well as working on the Desert Fireball Network project, which aims to uncover where meteorites come from in the Solar System.

It’s an incredibly exciting time for space and planetary science, according to Phil, with NASA going back to the Moon and on to Mars, plus the private sector engaging and investing in space exploration in a way that it never has before. “I hope that Australia engages with the science of space exploration in the way that other nations do,” he says. “Those nations fly challenging missions because it benefits their space industry sectors in multiple ways. It’s jobs and growth via science.”

Phil’s advice for those wanting to pursue STEM is to pick the thing you love. “If you’re bouncing out of bed in the morning and can’t wait to engage with a project or a problem, it’s easy to be good at it.”

Phil Bland’s STEM study + career path to becoming a planetary scientist and professor

  •   Bachelor of Science (Geology), University of Manchester
  •   Research Fellow, The Open University
  •   Royal Society University Research Fellowship, Imperial College London
  •   Director, Impacts and Astromaterials Research Centre, Imperial College London
  •   Australian Laureate Fellowship, Curtin University
  •   Director, Space Science and Technology Centre, Curtin University

Ready to launch your space career? Check out our space careers hub for more deets, pathways and STEM stories.

This profile originally appeared in Careers with STEM: Space 2022.

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