Africa's first private space satellite will be launched in May 2017, thanks to 14 girls from South Africa. They have designed and constructed payloads for a satellite that will collect agriculture information across the continent, helping African countries better prepare for natural disasters and food shortages.
The satellite launch is part of a project headed by South Africa's Meta Economic Development Organization (MEDO) in collaboration with Morehead State University in the U.S. The girls are being trained by engineers from Cape Peninsula University of Technology in the hope of encouraging more African women to get involved in STEM fields. No black African has ever journeyed into space, and many of the girls participating in the MEDO project hope to be the first.
"Discovering space and seeing the Earth's atmosphere, it's not something many black Africans have been able to do, or do not get the opportunity to look at," 16-year-old Sesam Mngqengqiswa told CNN. "I want to see these things for myself. I want to be able to experience these things."
"Providing an avenue for young women in Africa to design, build, test and launch satellites is dear to my heart," Dr. Mae C. Jemison, first female African American Astronaut and Chief Ambassador for Bayer's Making Science Make Sense program told Seeker. "The skill sets and confidence developed in such an undertaking is important. In addition, the world will benefit from the new perspectives, problem identification and problem solving capacity we will gain."
The project is expected to help Africa identify and solve their many climate issues. Information gathered by the satellite will allow Africans to better prepare for the tumultuous weather conditions of the continent.
"We expect to receive a good signal, which will allow us to receive reliable data," Mngqengqiswa told CNN. "In South Africa we have experienced some of the worst floods and droughts and it has really affected the farmers very badly."