Africa leaps forward into space technology
African space programs are nothing new. In 1964 Edward Mukuka Nkoloso, high school teacher and self-appointed director of Zambia’s national space program, had the bold ambition of beating the USA and the Soviet Union in the space race, and landing a Zambian on the Moon.
Using unconventional techniques, such as spinning students around a tree in an oil drum, Nkoloso trained 12 astronauts. He was unsuccessful, but in 2014 there was a film released inspired by his efforts.
Fortunately Africa’s space programs now look much more promising. In fact, in the last decade the continent has entered a space race.
Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, Egypt and Algeria have taken a renewed interests in their existing programs, and Kenya has joined the club and launched its own home-designed satellite last week.
Two big players
While no African country is within realistic reach of moon travel yet, Nigeria and South Africa have by far the most advanced space programs on the continent.
South Africa is set to host the world’s biggest radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
If successful, they claim the telescope will enable astronomers to look much deeper into space – at the sensitivity of many times current telescopes. The first phase will cost approximately $790 million.
South Africa has set its sights on space observation, but what about space travel?
In that field, Nigeria is leading the charge. They’re planning to be the first African country to send an astronaut into space.
The government announced the plans last year, and is aiming to visit space by 2030.
Nigeria is aiming to create a world-class space industry. “The focus of our space program is economic development,” Felix Ale, communications chief of The National Space Research and Development Agency (NASDRA), told CNN.
Since 2003, NASRDA have launched five satellites which have helped improve
agricultural practices, collect climate data and track-down hostages taken by
Boko Haram and in 2016 received $20 million of funding.