World Space Week in South Africa concluded today with a high level industry representation during a live broadcast from the SANSA Space Operations facility in Hartebeesthoek, west of Johannesburg.

World Space Week as declared by the United Nations in 1999, is an opportunity for government and industry to give citizens a perspective of South Africa’s and global investments in space science and technology, and most importantly expose as many young South Africans as possible to career possibilities in the sector.

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) led the effort to showcase the various space players in the country that are making a contribution to the burgeoning local industry. Most importantly, the Department is involved in this initiative to inspire as many young people as possible, to space science and technology, especially those from previously disadvantaged areas.

For this reason, close to a 100 learners from Re-E-Lwele Primary and Kwena Molapo Comprehensive Farm School from nearby Lanseria were let into everything space science and technology at the space operations facility.

Officials and experts from the SA National Space Agency (SANSA), the DST, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), Denel Spaceteq, the CSIR and GeoterraImage relayed the local achievements – from the development of micro-satellites and future products, services and applications that are derived from Earth Observation satellites and developments in the local space engineering industry in general.

The DST Deputy Director-General for Technology Innovation, Mr Mmboneni Muofhe, reiterated the integrated nature of space technologies in our daily lives such as communication and navigation services that relay on satellites and the need for continued investment in space for the growth of the country.

SANSA Acting CEO, Mr Potlaki Maine and members of the executive team took the opportunity to highlight the successes from the various specialised areas of the space programme, from supporting international space missions to protecting Earth technologies through monitoring space weather and providing critical data from Earth observation satellites for the benefit of society.

The theme for this year’s’ World Space Week is ‘Remote sensing: Enabling our Future’ and places the importance of Earth observation in enabling a sustainable future for humanity. Industry partners from GeoterraImage and CSIR Meraka Institute along with SANSA are some of the bigger contributors to this specialised field in South Africa and deliver products and applications for as example, fire monitoring, and land use mapping, for example.

Young engineers from CPUT are actively developing nano-satellites, showing that future satellites are shrinking in size but growing in their applications. This exciting area provides incredible opportunities for developing the space capabilities and skills for the country.

Tshwarelo Tlapane from Kwena Molapo school said she learned “how you travel from Earth to space and the type of machines used for manned space missions, and also before you can do that, your body has to be tested for fitness and health.”

Also from the same school, Paulos Bokaba, who lives in Diepsloot, now wishes to move from the area, this after a satellite image showed how population in the area had grown over nine years from 2000.

“Because of this over-population, there isn’t enough space to bury residents and crime is also growing. I hope to spread the word in Diepsloot about what I learned here today. Such information can be used to make the world we live in a better one,” said the Grade 10 learner.

The day ended with a tour of the facility with the learners, being told more about the antennas on the premises.