South Africa partners with NASA to host a ‘deep-space ground station’ – which will support missions to Mars

 ·28 May 2020

Cabinet has approved a partnership between the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to host a Deep Space Ground Station.

The station, which will be based in Matjiesfontein in the Western Cape, will support human spaceflight missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond, it said in a statement on Thursday (28 May).

“It will be integrated into an existing network of three sites in the United States of America, Spain and Australia. As the fourth site, it will complement the other three sites and provide improved coverage and redundancy for critical mission support. SANSA will operate, maintain and manage the station.

“The station will benefit South Africa in, amongst others, the development of scarce skills and the growth of the science, engineering, technology and innovation sector.

“It will also provide opportunities to feed the knowledge economy, and increase the national research output in space science and technology,” it said.

SANSA said the new ground station will support NASA’s efforts to return the next man and the first woman to the Moon, and also its efforts to journey beyond Mars.

Looking to the stars 

On Monday (25 May), minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Blade Nzimande said that the government is also looking at space technologies which could help improve remote-learning in the country.

Nzimande said that his department is now considering the use of ‘Space Science and Earth Observation technologies and platforms’ in support of its plans to reach to vulnerable students.

“The Department of Science and Innovation, in conjunction with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, Sentech and South African National Space Agency, is currently looking at a long-term solution to supporting the digital transmission needs for the national education system through the launch of a locally-produced communications satellite,” he said.

“The CSIR is also completing the task of establishing a Geospatial planning map identifying the location and distribution of learning and co-learning sites in all the districts of South Africa to enable us to support students in the period before full return to campuses.”

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