I’m toying with the idea of writing a book titled Space Exploration: Man’s Journey into the Next Frontier. Problem is, the only people who’d find it interesting are rocket scientists (and those working closely with them). If I decide to spin it around and write it for us normal folk, it’s going to be a very short book, because it seems the most earth shattering step we’ve made in space exploration was on the moon, years ago.
Personally, I think Africa’s stance so far regarding (ad)venturing into the unknown quarters of space, is spot on. As this article from The Conversation points out, Africa is focused on the socioeconomic benefits of space programs.
First of all, not many African countries have a space program. I know of Nigeria’s National Space Research and Development Agency (NSRDA), which flies a number of multimillion-dollar satellites; Ghana’s Space Science and Tech Centre, and South Africa’s National Space Agency (SANSA), which launched SUNSAT, in 1999 (some of these satellites were launched in non African countries that have launch capabilities).
Secondly, most, if not all, of our space projects has been centred around satellite communications and earth monitoring. In Nigeria, satellites are used to monitor the Niger Delta region, the activities (or aftermaths) of the Boko Haram insurgency, weather patterns, and so on. In South Africa, satellites are used for regional planning and disaster monitoring. You should know by now of Facebook’s plans of beaming internet connectivity down to African countries. In short, none of that “going to Mars nonsense”.
That’s not to knock space exploration. A lot of good, if coincidental, has come out of research into space exploration including the cure for Arthritis, air purification techniques, and food regeneration.
But I also believe in first things first, and right now, Africa is still trying to figure out how to place one feet before the other. Besides, it’s not like there’s been any wonderful breakthroughs in space exploration. Oh, we’ve discovered waves on Jupiter? Wow! That’s so exciting. When are we going there though?
Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video via Compfight cc