- It has been six decades since the first human explored space, but Africa is yet to send an African-born astronaut to space
- The good news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel as billions have been sunk by African countries into space programmes
- Briefly News celebrates the names of five African women at the helm of some of these programmes
It has been 64 years since October 4, 1957 when humans first explored space through the Russian-built satellite Sputnik.
Despite the six decades of humans pushing limits, Africa is yet to send an African-born astronaut to space, but most countries on the continent continue to bolster programmes towards achieving that milestone.
It is estimated that a combined figure of more than $7 billion (approximately R101 billion) has been sunk into space programmes by Nigeria, Angola, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa and Rwanda.
The names of five African-born women are conspicuous in these programmes for their leadership roles in the growing venture.
Abimbola Alale - Nigeria
Abimbola Alale has been at the helm of the Nigerian Communication Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT) since her appointment by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in February 2014.
Before ascending to the position of Chief Executive Officer, Alale had held the Executive Director of Marketing at the company since it was founded in 2006.
She holds a degree in Space Studies and as well as a Masters from the International Space University in Strasbourg, France.
Jessie Ndaba - South Africa
Jessie Ndaba is a South African space engineer who teamed up with Khalid Manjoo to start an astronomy startup called Astrofica.
The tech company deals in designing, assembling, and testing satellite systems.
Ndaba's fascination with space exploration began in her childhood when her grandmother gifted her with a textbook that had an image of a rocket engine.
According to her, lack of information on space exploration is the reason the field has fewer women as many who excel in maths and science prefer to go into medicine.
"Females by nature are nurturers and are peaceful, therefore they would go for professions that afford them a platform to directly help or have a positive impact on people’s lives," she told Space in Africa.
Ruvimbo Samanga - Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe's Ruvimbo Samanga studied law and got so good at it that she once trained a team of students who went ahead to win the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court competition.
The feat took her down memory lane to her childhood when she became interested in the extra-terrestrial world.
Combining law and science, Samanga soon took a new direction in life that ended up with her becoming a space law and policy adviser.
She soon launched AgriSpace, an agribusiness company that helps farmers get the best out of their crops.
"I realized there was a technological gap as farmers are using archaic and traditional methods. To bridge that gap, we use satellite imagery and data to give farmers the necessary information they need to know when to plant, how to plant, what to plant, and where to plant," she told CNN.
Her dream has now metamorphosed into something she never imagined possible, a position she uses to inspire the next generation of African women interested in space exploration.
"I dream for a world where girls do not have to question themselves and are not questioned. My dream is to see more African youth, especially young girls, in the African space industry," she said.
Susan Murabana - Kenya
Susan Murabana co-owns the Traveling Telescope, a startup that makes it easy for young scientists to understand space through the help of a telescope.
The Traveling Telescope has since made it possible for children and adults alike to identify new constellations as they explore the world beyond the human eye through the telescope.
“The telescope was invented more than 400 years ago but most people have never looked through one," she told APS Physics.
Susan holds a degree in Economics from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa and an MBA in Astronomy from the James Cook University.
Dr Nana Browne Kluste - Ghana
Nana Browne Kluste is a research scientist and manager at the Ghana Space Science and Technology Institute.
She holds a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Cape Town, specialising in climatology.
Nana boasts illustrious experience with various applications in space technology, critical knowledge that she uses to coordinate astronomy outreach missions at the Ghana Space Science and Technology Institute.
She also manages Ghanasat Limited, an institution that develops satellite applications in Ghana.
In other Briefly News reports, NASA astronaut, Jeanette Epps, is set to join crew members on the first operational flight of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS).
Announcing this exciting news, the Agency said the six-month expedition, which is scheduled to launch in 2021, will make Epps the first Black woman to live and work in space for an extended period of time.
Responding to her new assignment in a post on Twitter, Epps noted that she's "looking forward to the mission" alongside her colleague astronauts, Williams and Cassada.
Enjoyed reading our story? Download BRIEFLY's news app on Google Play now and stay up-to-date with major South African news!