A ground-breaking project is under way to send an African rocket to the moon — if the needed funds can be raised. Though the project seems far from reaching its monetary mark, the interest and commitment in the mission from project organizers and outside supporters is immense. Here are 12 things you didn’t know about African’s moon mission.
Sources: TheJournal.ie, MGAfrica.com, AFKInsider.com, Africa2Moon.DevelopSpaceSA.org
Since Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in June 1969, countries across the globe engaged in a space race to get their own moon missions off the ground. No African countries have achieved the goal, but Cape Town-based nonprofit Foundation for Space Development, which is fronting the Africa2Moon Mission, is attempting to change that.
As of January 2015, the Africa2Moon mission has raised $13,000 of its initial target of $150,000. The initial investment would aid development of the program, final mission concept, outreach, and an associated feasibility study to assess the practicality of the final moon mission.
Projects such as a private endeavor in England known as Lunar Mission One were able to raise significantly more than Africa2Moon. Lunar One exceeded its target of nearly $1 million ahead of schedule.
Jonathan Weltman, CEO for the Foundation For Space Development, said, “The donor response has been slower than we hoped but has picked up dramatically at the start of this year and we are optimistic about our target being reached, if not by the end of the current crowd-funding campaign, then through other funding sources in the first quarter of the year.”
Many African engineers travel abroad to find better work opportunities, leaving the continent short handed. The phenomenon known as brain drain has cast doubt on whether or not the moon mission could be successful.
Space travel often has to withstand criticism from those who believe that the money to fund missions would be better spent elsewhere. Africa in particular has faced opposition from those who feel issues such as poverty, corruption and disease should be addressed first.
Africa is one of the youngest continents on the planet with more than 50 percent of its population under the age of 19. The Africa2Moon mission “is being designed to inspire the youth of Africa to believe that they can reach for the moon by reaching for the moon through education and science.”
The primary objective of the Africa2Moon mission is to provide public participation and scientific missions over several years. The program will culminate in a final mission to the moon that will transmit video images of the moon’s surface and surrounding orbiting space to the Internet to be used in classrooms across Africa.
In 2012, it was decided that the bulk of the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope (SKA) would be built in South Africa, with the rest to be located in Western Australia. This was a major scientific coup for the continent. The telescope is meant to investigate the Big Bang and black holes, as well as look to possibility of life beyond Earth.
The Africa2Moon project has been successful in recruiting talent necessary to reach its final goal. The manager for the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope site bidding, Adrian Tiplady, said, “(The project is) certainly feasible. There is the expertise to design, develop and launch such a vehicle.”
Lack of publicity is part of the struggle the Africa2Moon mission encountered in crowd-funding attempts. Until recently, the project wasn’t receiving much national or international attention beyond its website – africa2moon.developspacesa.org. However, as more media outlets have been picking up the story, donations have increased.
Though South Africa is spearheading the Africa2Moon campaign, it is seeking an all-inclusive effort from countries across the African continent. South Africa is the continent’s most developed economy.