South Africa, Life, etc

Podcast: African Space

By Sound Africa 29 December 2016

In this two-part episode, Sound Africa's Rasmus Bitsch turns the telescope on southern Africa's part in space exploration. Many will be surprised to learn how far back this history stretches, from the fanciful to the truly awe-inspiring. By SOUND AFRICA.

The first part of the episode looks at a less-than-illustrious history of space exploration in the region. Bitsch takes us back to an obscure and rather unorthodox space program from 1960s Zambia. Did the creator of this wildly ambitious project, Edward Nkoloso, have a vision that others simply failed to appreciate, or was he just the delusional eccentric he was made out to be?

The second part of the series focuses on the little-known Karoo town of Carnarvon, soon-to-be home of one of the most exciting global space projects of our time – the Square Kilometer Array (SKA).

This international collaboration envisions a large multi radio-telescope system built across different countries, with South Africa a key site. When complete, it will have a total collecting area of about a square kilometre, hence the name.

It has the potential to transform the way we understand the universe and our place in it. But the enormous telescopes will also radically transform dusty Carnarvon, from sleepy sheep farming town to a centre of scientific excellence (and sheep farming still, no doubt). Sound Africa spoke to leading scientific minds behind the project, and residents of Carnarvon, to find out what this project means to them.

But what do Edward Nkoloso’s DIY space project and the Square Kilometer Array have in common? They’re worlds apart, to be sure, but both are testimony to humanity’s unbridled ambition, curiosity and imagination – traits that have taken us to the moon and beyond.

Sound Africa is an independent South African podcast collective. The podcast above is part of our inaugural season, and we’re pleased to announce the imminent release of our second season, Nuclear SA, which will be published on the Daily Maverick website early in 2017. Visit soundafrica.org to find our more about us and support independent media in SA.

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