Maggie Aderin-Pocock looks at the surprising history of African space exploration.
Space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock visits Nigeria, the birthplace of her father, to look at why African nations are apparently so keen to journey into the future as a space-going continent. She explores the passionate desire among some to fly against the continent’s impoverished stereotype and join the space race. And, what of the financial commitment required to achieve these dreams in countries where it is sometimes a struggle to keep the lights on?
“Quite a few false starts have been made in Africa,” wrote the Ugandan philosopher and writer Taban Lo-Liyong, “...but most of us know the direction we are going – straight into the 21st Century. And to arrive there we are not going to go the way our grandparents would have gone – on foot and by canoe. We shall fly, we shall go by missiles, we shall go with the white man, we shall go with the yellow man. And we shall go by all means.”
We follow this poetic, aspirational spirit through the continent’s history, from speaking to the South African hoping to be the first black African in space, to a surprising and touching example of amateur space exploration in 1960s Zambia. What do these ambitions mean, and who believes in them?
(Photo: Back dropped by planet Earth the International Space Station (ISS) is seen from Nasa space shuttle Endeavour, May 2011. Credit: Nasa)
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