Zimbabwe defies gravity to join the big boys in space


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LAST Monday, history was made when our Nation, Zimbabwe, despatched its first ever satellite into Space.

This was a fine moment, a landmark development made possible through the collaborative effort of three nations, namely, Japan, the United States of America and ourselves.

Our budding space scientists worked closely with their Japanese counterparts to build the satellite. Once built and ready, we turned to the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA), the space agency of the United States of America, for launch technology. 

All this happened under the ambit of the Joint Global Multi-Nation Birds Satellite Project, BIRDS for short. It was a remarkable show in multinational collaboration in aid of space science. I want to thank both these Governments for availing their expertise and facilities without which our ambitions to become a Space Nation would have remained a delayed dream.

The despatch of any body into space is always a delicate affair. A lot of things can and often do go wrong. That Monday morning when the launch was done, I was in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for COP 27. It was an anxious and unsettling moment watching and waiting with bated breath, as NASA prepared to launch the rocket carrying our ZIMSAT-1 into space.

After all, the launch had been called off at the last minute the day before, because of some technical glitches. On the day, my anxiety mounted with each countdown; it would not be allayed until the rocket took off from the Launchpad, soared high and higher, to dwindle into a diminishing flicker, before disappearing and vanishing into vast space, well beyond human sight. 

It was then I half-settled, realising a key milestone for our young Nation had been passed. Experts tell me the second stage will take place later this month, when our ZIMSAT-1 will be launched into orbit. Only then will the mission be complete, making us a full Space Nation. We will be among the few on our African Continent.

The despatch of ZIMSAT-1 was no accident. Earlier, after the inauguration of the Second Republic, we sat down as the new Administration to debate the role of education, innovation, science and technology in the modernisation and industrialisation of our country. At the time, our Economy was in deep throes. Yet still we dared envision. The result was a new doctrine we now call Education 5.0, which made heritage, innovation and industrialisation key pillars of our new, transformed education system.

The goal was to put education and knowledge building in the service of our Nation, as our Nation sought to overcome its challenges, and to modernise and industrialise on its way to our stated vision, Vision 2030. 

That Doctrine also enjoined Government to assign 1 percent of National Gross Domestic Product (GDP) towards Research and Development (R and D). This had never been done before, with our country all along being a mere consumer of received technologies, sunset ones even, in a number of cases. 

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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