Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor unveiled a countrywide advertising and marketing campaign to build up support for the bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) in South Africa.
With just a couple of months remaining ahead of the bid winner announcement, the campaign, created around astronomy and the moon as themes, is ready to promote interest in the initiative and demonstrate how Africa is rapidly proving itself to be an international hub of astronomy.
The DST, together with the South African State Theatre, will make use of the remaining months to rally support from communities countrywide to play their part by hosting Full Moon Fever campaign on Fridays, Saturdays or Mondays closest to the full moon.
The launch brings together exhibitions, a laser show, performing arts presentation of African Stars and a night sky view.
On top of that, there will be career exhibitions in collaboration with the Tshwane University of Technology and University of South Africa to spotlight the a variety of fields of science and technology accessible to students and possible career paths with specific focus on astronomy and radio astronomy.
Pandor pointed to South Africa’s perfect environment for radio and optical astronomy and the fact that the country enacted the Astronomy Geographic Act of 2008 to safeguard its astronomy reserves from damaging effects.
Among the many advantages as a result of this was the Southern African Largest Telescope (SALT), the giant facility which has transformed the country into a prime place to go for the world’s scientists and researchers.
“The establishment of the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) is a welcome development that has grown to become a crucial vehicle for promoting our expanding satellite industry in addition to a wide range of innovations in space sciences, earth observation, communications, navigation and engineering,” Pandor said.
As part of the African commitment to the SKA project, South Africa is constructing the Karoo Array Telescope, the MeerKAT, in the Northern Cape.
This telescope will be a world-class radio telescope in its own right when finished in 2016.
This precursor is a demonstration telescope of technologies being taken into consideration for the SKA. Phase 1 of MeerKAT, which is KAT-7 (a seven-dish array telescope), is now complete with operations starting in early 2012.
South Africa has decided to have its own space agency to promote and also coordinate space science and technology programmes in the nation.
The long-awaited South African National Space Agency (Sansa) is going to be launched in Midrand, Johannesburg, on 9 December 2010.
Sansa’s National Space Strategy will be presented right away to put South Africa among global frontrunners in space science and technology.
A parliamentary Act to establish Sansa had been passed in December 2008, and ever since then the Department of Science and Technology has been spending so much time to make the body a reality.
“The South African National Space Agency will coordinate and integrate national space science and technology programmes and conduct long-term planning for the implementation of space-related activities in South Africa,” said the department’s spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele in a statement.
The agency is without a doubt expected to fast-track South Africa’s position in global space ventures. The Department of Science and Technology said one of the main goals of Sansa will certainly be to strongly encourage the peaceful use of outer space.
It’s also anticipated that Sansa will help to make it simpler for South African bodies to carry out their own astronomy research. The administration wants the agency to stimulate cooperation on space-related projects between the nation and the global community.
Global space agreements
The Department of Science and Technology said international deals will certainly be signed at the launch, as well as an inter-agency cooperative agreement together with the Algerian Space Agency on space science and technology.
A memorandum of understating will be agreed upon between Sansa and the National Institute for Space Research of Brazil and the China Centre for Resources Satellite Data and Application.
A major deal will additionally be clinched to permit the reception and distribution of China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (CBERS-3) data within South Africa and the Southern African region, said the department.
Sansa’s CEO and a board of between 10 and 15 members are predicted to be introduced at the launch. The executives will be designated by the Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor, as stipulated in the Act.
South Africa’s space institutions
South Africa is in fact already heading up a number of notable space projects, which includes the Square Kilometre Array, the Southern African Large Telescope and SumbandilaSat. Sansa will become the umbrella body that will will synchronize all these projects.
The agency will also incorporate the country’s current science and technology establishments, such as the Satellite Applications Centre run by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
Most of these bodies already “play a significant role in the scientific study, exploration and utilisation of space”, according to the Department of Science and Technology.
The French South African Institute of Technology, based at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, is one of the front-runners in establishing space science and technology in the country.
There are about 74 companies that trade within the aerospace and defence sector in South Africa, according to the International Astronautical Federation.
The federation will host its 62nd International Astronautical Congress in Cape Town in October 2011. This will be the first time such a congress is organised in Africa.
“South Africa has some of the best space infrastructure in Africa,” reads a report released by the department.
The actual country’s participation in astronomy dates back to 1685, at what time a temporary observatory was established in the Western Cape. Subsequently, a permanent observatory was set up in 1820 outside Cape Town.
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