An American husband and wife team of "international space consultants" has come to New Zealand hoping to make space exploration a thriving industry here.

Eric Dahlstrom and Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom are among about 100 innovators and entrepreneurs who want to change the world and are in the country as part of the Edmund Hillary Fellowship (EHF) - a programme with provides them with a three-year Global Impact Visa and pathway to residency.

They arrived in New Zealand last week and aim to help Kiwis build small spaceships, use data from satellites to solve local problems and make money, and - eventually - send more of us into space.

Paat-Dahlstrom, who was born in the Philippines but has lived in the US for decades, said making space exploration more accessible and sustainable was important to reducing global inequality.


Although the average person could now afford the technology needed for space exploration, many - particularly those in developing nations - didn't know how to use it or weren't aware of its existence.

The space industry was currently dominated by large corporations - like Nasa Space X and Blue Origin - but the couple wanted to encourage people and smaller startups from different countries to get involved.

"If you think about the future of humanity - and this is like really long, long, long term - the earth is a finite space. So even if we find all of the solutions to the big problems of the day, resources are still going to be for sure a problem in the long run," said Paat-Dahlstrom.

"The only way to actually solve that is to solve resources out of planets."

While big players in the field were already planning how to do this, to have a global space economy that was sustainable everyone needed to be part of it.

"We want to make sure that each country who is interested in being part of that future space ecosystem will have the means and also the capacity and the funding to be part of it."

In the long term - possibly within the lifetime of today's children - that would mean sending large numbers of people to space to mine space resources, her husband, Dahlstrom, said.

But in the near future, the couple would focus on getting small groups of New Zealanders to start building small spacecraft to orbit the earth and analysing the data that came from satellites to study and solve real-world problems.

New Zealand had the potential lead to the way in an emerging space industry, Paat-Dahlstrom said, as it had all the necessary ingredients - including a supportive, progressive government, strong tech and entrepreneurial community and the infrastructure.

The country's isolation was an advantage as it meant rockets could be launched more often because there was less air traffic than elsewhere.

Paat-Dahlstrom said she and Dahlstrom - who have more than 30 years' experience in space exploration - wanted to help get a space exploration industry off the ground.

The first step was to educate people.

Kiwis with engineering or science backgrounds could do vocational or online training to get the skills they'd need to work in the space industry.

"Once you have potential talent, then you need to incentivise specific entrepreneurs to work on projects and ideas that are focused on space," she said.

Then they'd need to ensure the startups were successful and secure funding.

"We're kind of in the beginning part our initiative right now," Paat-Dahlstrom said.

Another way get people engaged was to set up national or regional space challenges which brought together entrepreneurs to use space technologies to solve a specific local problem - like dirty rivers.

They were building a digital platform that could act as a "space directory", connecting Kiwis to other space entrepreneurs around the world.

The Dahlstroms were also coming up with ideas on how they could use their network in the industry - particularly in the US - to attract overseas investment to space projects here.

Dahlstrom had previously worked for Nasa where he helped to design the International Space Station.

Paat-Dahlstrom was part of a team that sent the first private citizen to space.

They are both alumni of the International Space University and have founded a business called the International Space Consultants that has worked with space agencies and organisations around the world.

The couple is currently based in Wellington but said they were open to moving elsewhere in New Zealand if there was a better place to set up a space industry.

Dahlstrom said he and Paat-Dahlstrom were excited by the ventures of Kiwi company Rocket Lab which could give people "low-cost, routine" access to space.