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Is Africa Heading to the Moon?

David Smith | The Guardian   in  ·
January 6, 2015

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena,” wrote the astronomer Carl Sagan. “Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors, so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.”

Africa has had its fair share of self-important generals and emperors who failed to comprehend the bigger picture. Now the continent is being asked to gaze upward and unite for a common goal: its first mission to the moon.

Organisers of Africa2Moon hope to inspire and educate a new generation of engineers and scientists, as well as shattering prejudices in the rest of the world that often paint this as a hopeless, dependent and scientifically illiterate continent.

“The main reason we chose the moon is that you can walk outside and there it is,” said Jonathan Weltman, manager of the project and chief executive of the Foundation for Space Development. “Kids across Africa can pull out a telescope and see it.”

The ultimate ambition, which could take a decade, is to put a probe on the lunar surface or in orbit around it, then beam back live pictures via the internet to classrooms all over Africa. It will also be a platform for experiments proposed by scientists. But Weltman believes the journey is as important as the destination: every year there will be a related project inviting mass participation.

The non-profit foundation, based in Cape Town, South Africa, has turned to online crowdfunding and is seeking $150,000 by the end of the month for the first phase, which will involve addressing and recruiting students at universities across Africa. So far it has raised $12,744 since 19 November.

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