The first African citizen to fly to space will launch in April 2002. Mark Shuttleworth, a South African entrepreneur, will stake Africa's claim to the 21st Century in space by joining a multinational crew of astronauts and cosmonauts in a joint program of science and media activities on the International Space Station (ISS).
"I have always dreamed of space as a platform for inspiration, education and technology, and am working to realize that dream for South Africa," Shuttleworth says.
He is currently undergoing training as a cosmonaut at Star City, outside Moscow, and will be a fully certified member of the Soyuz crew, responsible for some Soyuz systems during the flight. Shuttleworth will conduct several scientific experiments while in space, in collaboration with South African and Russian researchers, as well as participating in a national media campaign focusing on the global digital divide and the importance of mathematics and science education.
This initiative will provide a major boost to the South African National Education Strategy for Science and Mathematics and its efforts to attract South African students to high technology careers. It will provide an opportunity for South African scientists to conduct scientific experiments in the unique environment of weightlessness and microgravity. It will also focus national attention on South Africa's budding space technology research program at the Houwteq Institute for Space and Software Applications and other local institutions. But most importantly, it will reach out to people of all ages across the African continent and challenge them to reach for their own dreams.
"I believe that Africa will emerge as a vibrant and successful global economic power this century, and I hope that our first foray into space helps people across the continent imagine ways in which they can participate in that success. We must address the complex issues that face the continent, many of which are rooted in the past, but we must also never lose sight of the future that we are building" said Shuttleworth.
"This is the realization of a personal dream, a dream that started at the tip of Africa. I hope it will inspire many of my fellow Africans, of all ages, to believe in the power of their dreams."
Read the full press release.