Zambia Joined The Space Race
Photo credit: Cristina De Middel
Zambia is one country you do not hear about often. It is a landlocked country tucked somewhere in south-central Africa. In 1964, it joined the space race and planned to land a man on the moon before the US or the Soviet Union ever did. This was five years before Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon.
The Zambian space program was the private project of Edward Mukuka Nkoloso, a schoolteacher and founder of Zambia’s National Academy of Science, Space Research and Philosophy. Mukaka recruited twelve prospective astronauts including a 16-year-old girl called Matha Mwamba for the planned moon landing.
Mukuka lacked funding for his space project. The Zambian government was not interested in a partnership and the United Nations, United States, Soviet Union and Israel had ignored his funding requests. Nevertheless, he continued to train his astronauts using an old drum he had found.
The trainee astronauts entered the drum, which was then rolled round a tree or down a hill to imitate flight conditions. The astronauts also learned how to walk on their hands, which Mukaka claimed was the only way a human could ever walk on the moon.
The whole thing was so hilarious that international reporters started to consider it a joke. Mukaka never clarified his intention even though he seemed to be serious about it. He once told an interviewer “I’ll be laughing the day I plant Zambia’s flag on the moon.”
The space program fell apart when the trainee astronauts started asking for money. Two of Mukaka’s top astronauts also got drunk and never for returned for training. A third joined a movie troupe. The program finally ended when the only female trainee astronaut got pregnant.
If nothing else, you have to give the man credit for chasing his dream, right? Something I believe more of us should do.
Coffee out on the patio this morning!