Scientists hail Africa's steps in space

2011-10-03 19:02

Cape Town - More African countries are launching satellites and taking advantage of space technology, the world's top scientists heard on Monday at a meeting marking the 50th anniversary of human space flight.

The International Astronautical Federation (IAF) opened its annual conference, held for the first time in Africa, with a call for the continent to use space technology to benefit its people.

"It has always been an objective of the IAF to disseminate space knowledge to many new countries globally. It will continue to spread the notion space is not just the playground for wealthy countries," said IAF president Berndt Feuerbacher.

"It brings value and benefits to the citizens of all places of the world."

Feuerbacher highlighted last month's milestone in Nigeria's space programme with the launch of two satellites Nigeriasat 2 and Nigeriasat X, used for forestry, mapping, disaster monitoring and security applications.

South Africa in 2009 launched an environmental observation satellite called SumbandilaSat, and last year formed its own space agency. Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco and Tunisia all have their own space initiatives, he said.

"Exciting times are emerging for space in Africa," he told delegates when opening the congress.

A major year

"I am glad to see more and more African countries embracing the benefits space technology brings to their citizens."

The heads of the world's major space agencies were set to meet later on Monday, while the five-day conference would also commemorate the 50th anniversary of Russian Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man in space.

The meeting will also review the major changes under way in space agencies around the world, with Nasa making the last flight of the US space shuttle fleet while unveiling its new Space Launch System.

Last week China also reached a milestone in its space programme with the launch of Tiangong-1, an experimental module that marks a first step toward building a space station.

"The year 2011 is a year of major changes and amazing achievements in space," Feuerbacher said.

  • KarooOstrich - 2011-10-03 19:20

    Africa should forget about space projects. What do they hope to gain by this VERY expensive exercise? Looking at the poverty, disease, famine, civil wars, human rights violations, HIV/AIDS, dictatatorships, drought, piracy, corruption (shall I go on?), then I would say that Africa is really screwed up - they've got their priorities COMPLETELY WRONG !!!

      PyroSA - 2011-10-03 19:29

      You forget that many of those things can be efficiently addressed using these very satelites.

      Succubus - 2011-10-03 19:37

      If you don't keep up, you get left behind. We will not stop progressing just because a potion of our population can't keep up. I'm very proud of the work our scientists and engineers are doing to push the boundaries of African scientific and technological evolution. If you don't move forward, you either stay where you are, or move backwards. If you look at where Africa is right now, I don't want to stay where we are, and I definitely don't want to move backwards. So I say, well done to our scientists and engineers, and keep that space program rolling. We will either advance our selves out of the primitive darkness of Africa, or we will succumb to the savagery of it.

      Yoni - 2011-10-03 19:47

      @Karoo Ostrich: I totally agree with you. Maybe they think in space there's no roads to maintain and a lot of tenda's up for grabs. Just think what the world press would have to say if they saw a real SA astronaut dropping in with his Hi-Ace from Space... "Do you feel alright? (yeah yeah yeah yeah) Do you feel okay? (yeah yeah yeah yeah) I'm your woodpecker from space. Start snapping, start rapping, Everybody likes woodpecker rapping CHORUS Woodpeckers from space (he he he HE he) Woodpeckers from space (he he he HE he) Woodpeckers from space (he he he HE he) Woodpeckers from space (he he he HE he)"

      KarooOstrich - 2011-10-03 20:09

      @ PyroSa - please explain to me exactly how spending billions + billions on space programmes will help to adress the questions of poverty, disease, famine, civil war, human rights violations,HIV/AIDS, dictatorships, drought, piracy + corruption in Africa. I just don't get it. Or am I missing something?

      PyroSA - 2011-10-04 01:00

      Just to put things in perspective, this is not "put a man on the moon" project; We built a satellite. This satellite only cost about R26 million. If you want to put it in context - the photos you normally have to buy from these satellites can be upwards of R40k. Also - Sunspace is a business, not a government organisation. And from what I understand, the R26m satellite has already brought in well over R200m in forex. As for the problems? The photos it takes can be used to better predict environmental issues. From veld fires and the like to vegetation desities. And while that does not directly solve all the problems, it can help plan aid programs more accurately, and make farming and nature programmes more efficient.

      Barry M - 2011-10-04 14:25

      Hang fire boet - we are launching a space braai next year! How's that for a first!?

  • eishhau - 2011-10-03 21:00

    Are there any copper cables left to assemble spaceships in Africa?

      KarooOstrich - 2011-10-03 21:06

      I think that's what is holding the whole programme back.

  • KarooOstrich - 2011-10-03 21:43

    I just don't get it. How many fully equipped hospitals, how much ARV, how much food, houses could have been gotten for the upliftment of the poorest of the poor with all this money spent on space programmes? Just does not make any sense to me at all.

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