These women are shaping the future of African space exploration

In the heart of Cape Town, a control room buzzes with activity. Technicians monitor a grid of screens, scanning data that will soon make its way to astronomers working to deepen our understanding of the universe.

Operated by the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), the data is coming from the MeerKAT array — one of the most advanced radio telescopes in the world. Comprised of 64 connected satellite dishes in a remote part of the Northern Cape, the $330 million telescope has put South Africa on the astronomy map. It’s also a key component of the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), an international effort that will see thousands of dishes built in remote regions of South Africa and Australia.

“This is probably the biggest science project on the whole continent,” says Pontsho Maruping, SARAO deputy managing director. “We’ve already started training astronomers in other African countries.”

“What excites me is the fact that it allows people on the African continent to really contribute to one of the most technologically advanced industries in the world,” she adds.

While an African-born astronaut has yet to launch to space, programs across the continent are on the rise, especially in the fields of satellites and telescopes. Consulting group Space in Africa values space programs on the continent in excess of $7 billion, while countries including Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Angola, Kenya, Ethiopia and Rwanda have established or expanded their space agencies in the last 20 years.

Several of those programs include women in leadership roles. In celebration of International Women’s Day, meet three inspiring female pioneers shaping the future of space exploration across Africa and beyond.

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Source : CNN

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