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Northern Cape learners encouraged to appreciate space science
More than 1 000 learners from various high schools in Kuruman, Northern Cape, gathered at the local Thabo Moorosi Multipurpose Centre on Saturday, 19 September 2015, to celebrate World Space Week under the theme "Discovery".
Learners were encouraged to choose maths and science at school and pursue studies in space science at tertiary level. Some of the learners were interviewed by the team from the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) to share their experience about the Space Week and their future plans.
Most learners who were interviewed said they were planning to further their studies in science-related fields in the near future, and some said they were interested in pursuing a career in space science. Listen to the learners sharing their views on social media by visiting SAASTA's Facebook page or Twitter account.
The Department of Science and Technology's Deputy Director-General for Technology Innovation, Mr Mmboneni Muofhe, delivered the keynote address. He said through initiatives such as Space Week open day, the DST wanted to ensure that the youth fully understand the benefits of space science and technology such as telecommunications and broadcasting, earth observations and meteorology.
Exploring space science as a career
"These are some of the areas offering you wonderful opportunities for careers as researchers, engineers or technologists," Mr Muofhe told learners, urging the community of Mothibistad to ensure that the village also produced its fair share of space scientists, among other fields of science, technology, innovation and mathematics.
Also speaking at the event, the Chief Director for Curriculum Development and Delivery in the Northern Cape Department of Education, Ms Gobonamang Sibiya, said the open day would make a major contribution to the ultimate success of the goal to increase the number of learners taking maths and science in South Africa.
"We applaud this initiative, because investment in knowledge by a range of partners is always welcomed as education is really a societal issue," said Ms Sibiya, also encouraging the learners to choose to study maths and science to broaden their opportunities.
Mr Muofhe said the World Space Week 2015 theme, "Discoveries", served as a reminder to the nation of the spirit of enquiry that had led to scientists making breathtaking discoveries in the space science field over the years.
South Africa's stellar achievements in space S&T
South Africa was involved in various small-scale space activities until the 1980s, when it built its first reconnaissance satellite, called Greensat. Though it was never launched, the programme set the tone for what has become a strong foundation for space science and technology in South Africa.
More than two decades later, Stellenbosch University built a satellite, Sunsat, as a vehicle to train students. This set in motion the revival of space science and technology in the country, with the government-commissioned SumbandilaSat launched in 2009, followed by the launch of TshepisoSat in 2013, which was built by postgraduate students at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
Space science researchers, engineers and astronauts of the future
"These advances clearly demonstrate our capabilities in the area of space science, but also our commitment to building capacity to engage in meaningful activity as a nation," said Mr Muofhe.
The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope – the world's biggest astronomy project; the South African Weather Service; the South African National Space Agency; the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory; and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, with their micro-satellite, all presented programmes to demonstrate space science to the learners and community of Kuruman.
Learners had the opportunity to gain insight into space science and technology by participating in activities such as exhibitions, lectures, workshops, science shows and demonstrations. Such initiatives are organised to expose, and attract, as many young people as possible to careers in space science and technology – as researchers, astronomers, astronauts or engineers.
The Space Week initiative is implemented by SAASTA on behalf of the DST.
Staff Writer, SAASTA