Mars Buttfield-Addison


Space Traffic Controller

I'm from: Brisbane, Queensland
Current Location: Sandy Bay, Tasmania
Position: PhD Candidate, School of Information and Communications Technology, UTAS
Field of research/work: Computer Engineering
High Performance Computing
Space Domain Awareness
YTS Years: 2022 2023

Mars's Notable career moments

  • First learned about outer space at school. Became obsessed.

  • Flunked out of High School after struggling with autism, bullying.

  • Quit hospo job, drove to Tasmania, enrolled in UTAS UPP.

  • Began Bachelor of ICT at UTAS.

  • Began ICT Honours with UTAS/CSIRO.

  • Began PhD (Computer Engineering) at UTAS/CSIRO in space-related technology.

About Mars Buttfield-Addison

We use satellites for everything! From communicating with each other via calls and messages, to sending media like radio and television and the internet, to forecasting the weather and predicting extreme weather and climate events, to making maps and telling where we are, to looking at space to learn about how the universe works, and much more. We’ve even put satellites in orbit around other planets, and shot some straight out into deep space.


But satellites only work if they stay where they’re supposed to be, and stay in one piece. Unfortunately, over nearly 70 years of putting things into space, we’ve put a lot of junk up there. And because of the way gravity works, satellites move very very fast: almost three hundred times the speed of a car on a highway. When things move fast, and junk is in the way, crashes might happen. And our precious satellites might get destroyed. Worse, each crash just creates more junk for other satellites to run into.


So I play traffic controller. I work with different kinds of instruments—telescopes and sensors and computers—to look at space and keep track of where everything is. That way, we can tell when a crash is about to happen, and tell the satellite to move out of the way.


But I didn’t start out in space science. In fact, I studied computers at university. Before I worked with space instruments, I worked with technology across a bunch of domains, solving problems about animals and health and art and more. That’s what’s great about studying computers: you don’t have to pick just one science, you can team up with people to solve problems in any of them!