One of the world’s most advanced radio telescopes, MeerKAT array is in South Africa. The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) controls this facility. MeerKAT array is a major component of SKA (Square Kilometer Array), a global initiative geared towards building thousand of satellite dishes in remote areas of Australia and South Africa.
While the world awaits an African-born astronaut to make an entry to space, we are witnessing increased operational programs in the areas of satellites and telescopes. We have three women who are pioneering Africa’s space exploration projects.
Jessie Ndaba: A Space Engineer
Jessie Ndaba is a South African space engineer and co-founder of a satellite tech company called Astrofica in South Africa. The satellite tech company has its hub in Cape Town and handles manufacturing, assembling, and testing different satellite systems. Ndaba has seen an evolution in the field for the last 15 years. She believes that collaboration is the key to African space exploration success. Her company collaborates with other companies in and outside Africa.
Adriana Marais: Physicist and Explorer
Adriana Marais is a South African physicist and the founder of Proudly Human. Marais wants to travel to Mars. This quest has been her life dream and she is not stopping until the mission becomes a reality. She does not mind spending her last days on Mars. In 2015, Marais was shortlisted for the Mars One Project with other 99 astronauts.
While we are learning more about Mars, people like Marais are searching for ways to visit it and learn more from it. The extreme condition on Mars has been one of the major hindrances stopping humans from visiting. Marais has a plan to stimulate Mars’ harsh environment on earth, to help humans experience such weather conditions before they make their entry into Mars.
On Earth, Marais is preparing to simulate that harsh environment. In 2019, she started the research-based company Proudly Human. The company plans to run a series of settlement experiments in extreme environments as part of its Off-World project. In December 2019, Marais joined other astronauts in Antarctica, where they were supposed to spend at least nine months in isolation. However, the COVID-19 pandemic stopped the research.
Ruvimbo Samanga: Space Law Adviser
Ruvimbo Samanga is a space law adviser for Zimbabwe her home country. Zimbabwe started its space program in 2018. Samanga grew up in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and found interest in space while growing up. When she coached some law students to win the international Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court competition for Africa, her love for space exploded. She represents her country on the Space Generation Advisory Council, which supports the UN Programme on Space Applications. While the country has many challenges, especially in a food security crisis, Samanga founded AgriSpace. AgriSpace makes use of satellite technology to help farmers maximize their crop yield.
These three women are inspiring thousands of girls in the continent to see hope in the impossible. They have not gotten weary over the continent’s numerous challenges, but have found ways of helping Africa with their companies.