Space science, tech can make difference
By BEENE MABBOLOBBOLO
SOME days before the June 21 celestial spectacle that had millions of people in Southern Africa looking skyward the University of Zambia (Unza), with Cosmos Education, hosted a three-day conference.
Its theme was ‘Under African Skies’ and the subjects were focused on space, science and technology.
It was the first of its kind on African soil dedicated to discussing space science technology, applications and benefits, and the introduction or promotion of space science in schools and colleges.
Students and teachers from around the world gathered in Lusaka to mark the first solar eclipse of the Millennium at the unprecedented educational summit.
Minister of Science and Technology Valentine Kayope who opened the conference said the importance of space and technology could not be overemphasise as it contributed to the development of any nation by providing the technology. He said the .promotion of teaching of science and technology in schools as in line with Government’s policy on science and technology.
“Efforts by Cosmos Education to bring up awareness of space and technology are welcome and we would appreciate if you and other scientists in Africa and, in particular, Zambia cement the link that you have established with Cosmo Education,” he said.
Cosmos Education,. a non-govenmental charitable educational institution from the United States took advantage of the .June 21 total solar eclipse that cut across a swathe of Zambia and other Southern African countries to address issues of science and technology education in developing countries.
“What better way to excite students about their earth and to explore the rich scientific, and :cultural heritage in Africa than this celestial event,’’ said conference organiser and president of Cosmos Education Kevin Hand.
Although the eclipse covered a number of towns from Angola to Madagascar Lusaka as the only city in the path of totality.
The conference was the centrepiece of a five-week project bringing together African and Western science teachers to discuss with African school children the benefits and costs of science to roughly 750 students across South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Unza students and secondary school pupils shared this experience by attending special sessions devoted to them during the conference.
South African Astronomical Observatory graduate Benjamin Moalusi, session chairperson at thc conference noted that the meeting was unique in that it brought together secondary and university students, African and Western scientists and humanists.
Also discussed were recent advances in astronomy, which included a presentation titled ‘ Meteorite Impact Craters on the Earth’ by Austrian University of Vienna professor Christian Koerbel.
The meeting also discussed life in the universe and the role of the space technology in environment monitoring, which included hands-on interactive education sessions for students in secondary schools and universities.
One of the main focuses of the conference was the peaceful uses of outer space such as remote sensing and communication and how those applications can work for development of Africa.
A major sponsor of the conference was United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.
The office was initially created as a small expert unit within the secretariat to serve the ad-hoc committee on the peaceful uses of outer space established by the General Assembly in 1958.
The office implements the decisions of the General Assembly and of the committee on the peaceful users of outer space and its two sub committees, the sciences and the legal sub-committee.
The committee on the peaceful uses of outer space was established in 1959 to review the scope of international cooperation in peaceful uses of outer space, to advise on programmes in this field under United Nations auspices, to encourage continued research and the dissemination of information on outer space, and to resolve legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space.
The office not only supports these inter-governmental meetings and assists developing countries in using space science technology for development, but also provided secretarial services to the three United Nations conferences on the exploration and peaceful uses of outer space which were held in Vienna, Austria in 1968, 1982 and July 1999.
Other sponsors included The Planetary Society, The British Space, Lockheed Martin Space Operation, The Tillenius Fund of the Schwab Charitable Trust, Yuri’s Night and The Musk Foundation.