Ethiopia Shoots for Stars; Aims to Be Space Science Hub
JAMES JEFFREY/IPS AFRICA
In the Entoto Mountains, workers are completing Ethiopia’s first observatory. Studying stars and galaxies will be vital for this nation’s development, scientists say.
“Space technology is often considered a luxury only for developed countries,” said Solomon Belay, director of the $4 million Entoto Observatory and Research Centre. “But it’s actually a basic and vital need for development.”
Ethiopia’s topography and climate make it ideal for housing observatories. Another observatory is planned near the historic city of Lalibela.
The observatories will provide training and research facilities for students at 33 Ethiopian universities and will attract international academics and scientists. Ethiopia hopes to one day become a global hub for astronomy and research.
The Entoto Observatory houses two 1-meter-class telescopes. Each one weighs 6 metric tons and costs $1.5 million. It is the result of work by the Ethiopian Space Science Society (ESSS).
So far only a handful of African countries — such as Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa — have space programs that have launched satellites. But they’re likely to have company soon. In addition to Ethiopia, Ghana and Uganda recently established space research programs and are thought to be several years from putting satellites into space.
The Entoto Observatory seeks to offer master’s and doctoral training in observational and theoretical astronomy, space science, and earth observation.
ESSS is lobbying the government to get Ethiopian satellites into space within the next decade. These could improve telecommunications, and monitor mining, farming and infrastructure construction.
In 2015, a small satellite designed and constructed at Addis Ababa Institute of Technology will become the first Ethiopian satellite in space, sent with another 49 satellites as part of the European-based QB50 project.
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