With 70 percent of the population living on less than $2 a day, sub-Saharan Africa seems like an unlikely venue for a space program. Or is it?
A Cape Town-based non-profit, the Foundation for Space Development, has just kicked off a crowdfunding campaign to send an African lander or orbiter to the moon.
The mission’s primary objective will be to stream images from the surface of, or in orbit around, the moon, that can then be relayed back to classrooms in Africa.
They are trying to raise an initial $150,000 on Indiegogo and Causevox. On Causevox, the project has raised and have raised $12,564, 8 percent of their goal, with 61 days remaining in the campaign. On Indiegogo, it has raised only $142 so far.
The initial $150,000, if they manage to raise it, will be used for the development of the mission concept and associated feasibility study.
An extraterrestrial safari
The campaign’s web site explains the rationale behind the initiative:
”Today Africa is most often thought of as a continent in turmoil! However, Africa is also very capable and starting to get onto its feet with 7 of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world last year.”
“Inspiration is critical for the future of Africa. Inspiration leads to education and in turn education leads to opportunity and economic empowerment.”
“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!
According to the organizers, the mission will also provide a platform for one or more scientific experiments.
The project’s supporters include the University of Cape Town’s SpaceLab, the South African Space Association, Women in Aerospace and the Cape Town Science Centre.
Because cash-strapped governments are reluctant to invest money in space exploration, scientists in other countries have been turning to the public in crowd funding campaigns.
Israel’s SpaceIL, raised more than $280,000 earlier this year to support development of its lunar lander.
A British company, Lunar Missions Ltd., earlier this month announced Lunar Mission One. The launch would be in 2024, ten years from now, and would explore a previously unexplored region of the moon –it’s South Pole-Aiken Basin. The overall project will cost $1 billion, and so far the mission has achieved more than half of its initial goal of close to $1 million.
Egypt, Nigeria & South Africa have all launched and operated satellites, says the site.
Some people tweeting about the campaign remarked sardonically, “what about food security first?” With 70 percent of the population living on less than $2 a day, sub-Saharan Africa seems like an unlikely venue for a space program.
Or does it? Space research has also helped Africa advance. In particular, satellites have helped spur Africa’s mobile penetration, where over 70% of Africans have mobile phones, according to the BBC.