How did the idea of travelling to space come to you?
Space has fascinated me as long as I can remember. It represents a
frontier for humanity, and an enormous personal challenge. When I was
young, I used to experiment with different mixtures of rocket fuel to
try to build my own small rockets. Several years ago I started trying to
find a way to train as an astronaut. Now, finally, it seems that this
dream can become reality.
How do you feel about this travel, are you nervous?
Of course! I have moments of great fear when I think about the extreme
forces and technological difficulties of manned space flight. Walking
through that fear has been one of the ways this project has already been
personally rewarding. But being afraid is no reason to abandon a dream -
walking through unfamiliar territory is always tough, but also
ultimately very rewarding.
What do the people around you (family, friends, even girl
friend!!!) think of that?
They are 100% behind me! All of them have been wonderfully supportive,
even though some of them think it's a crazy and scary idea.
What will you have to do there?
There will be a daily programme of science experiments that will keep me
busy, and also time to communicate with people on earth, and time to
enjoy the experience of being there. I'm looking forward to meditating
with the greatest view ever!
Do you have a space training? If yes, what is it?
Yes, in total about 8 months of full time training and medical work for
the project. I have to be proficient in the systems of the Russian Soyuz
spacecraft, which I'll work with during the flight, and also understand
the ISS systems to ensure safety while I am on the space station. The
training includes weightlessness and centrifuge training, science
program training, and training on space craft communications, guidance
and control systems.
How long will you stay? Do you already know when will be the
Yes, I'll launch on April 22nd 2002 and fly for 10 days, 8 on the
Did you try to have contact with Dennis Tito or will you?
Yes, we've met. He's a great guy and seems to have been very prfoundly
moved by his experience of space.
What is your foundation about? What are you concretely doing?
It's about innovation in education. We fund innovative projects to try
to make education in Africa more effective. We are developing an open
source school administration system, for example, and funding
alternative types of textbook to see if they are more effective. We are
trying very hard to get schools and education professionals in Africa to
embrace open source software.
You said that you hope it will inspire the Africans to believe in
their dreams. Don't you think they'll have to dream really hard?!!
I think everybody has dreams which seem to be out of reach. But the
world is a surprising place, and I believe that people who strive for
their dreams turn them into reality more often than not, if they are
willing to work very hard, to take one step at a time in the right
direction, and if they are willing to take risks when opportunity
presents itself. Sometimes when those dreams don't come true we realise
that we didn't understand ourselves well enough, and we see new and
unexpected opportunities. But without dreams we don't make any effort to
move forward... dreams are very important to all people, of all ages, in
all countries. I worry that all the constant press about African
problems misses the amazing truth: that opportunity is abundant in
Africa for those who seek it and are willing to work for it. We must
work to solve the basic problems in Africa, but we must also ensure that
people have something to dream about so that they pursue those dreams in
Don't you think that your success story is uncommon and that africans
don't have such opportunities?
I've been very lucky. But I've also met people from all sorts of places
who have pursued their dreams and found themselves exceeding their
wildest expectations of life. As they say, if you shoot for the stars,
sometimes you reach the moon. Dreams keep us moving forward, keep us
motivated when times are tough. So in my view, Africa needs dreams as
much if not more than the rest of the world. We just also need to need
to believe that!