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Space Technology

Africa, Clooney, and an Unlikely Space Race 137

Posted by Soulskill
from the everyone-wants-to-get-there dept.
MightyMait writes "There's a plan underway to build a space agency run by African nations, and there is a (non-fictional) George Clooney connection. This BBC article details the history of space exploration in Africa as well as current efforts. Quoting: 'To Western eyes, it may seem rather inappropriate to launch space programs in sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly 70% of the population still lives on less $2 a day. Yet Joseph Akinyede, director of the African Regional Center for Space Science and Technology Education in Nigeria, an education center affiliated with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, says that the application of space science technology and research to "basic necessities" of life – health, education, energy, food security, environmental management – is critical for the development of the continent.'"
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Africa, Clooney, and an Unlikely Space Race

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Good, it's about time someone did some non-fictional space travel. Might as well be Clooney.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @03:38AM (#45658519)

    I am Joseph Akinyede, director of the African Regional Center for Space Science and Technology Education in Nigeria.

    Having consulted with my colleagues and based on the information gathered from the Nigerian Chambers Of Commerce And Industry, I have the privilege to request your assistance to transfer the sum of $47,500,000.00 (forty seven million, five hundred thousand United States dollars) into your accounts. The above sum resulted from an over-invoiced contract, executed, commissioned and paid for about five years (5) ago by a foreign contractor. This action was however intentional and since then the fund has been in a suspense account at The Central Bank Of Nigeria Apex Bank.

    We are now ready to transfer the fund overseas and that is where you come in. It is important to inform you that as civil servants, we are forbidden to operate a foreign account; that is why we require your assistance. The total sum will be shared as follows: 70% for us, 25% for you and 5% for local and international expenses incidental to the transfer.

    The transfer is risk free on both sides. I am an accountant with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). If you find this proposal acceptable, we shall require the following documents:

    (a) your banker's name, telephone, account and fax numbers.

    (b) your private telephone and fax numbers —for confidentiality and easy communication.

    (c) your letter-headed paper stamped and signed.

    Alternatively we will furnish you with the text of what to type into your letter-headed paper, along with a breakdown explaining, comprehensively what we require of you. The business will take us thirty (30) working days to accomplish.

    Please reply urgently.

    Best regards,

  • by Anonymous Coward

    When you have tens of millions in abject poverty, a few billions won't change their fate. Better to use it to advance your technological prowess and the spill over from that can eventually help the poor.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @04:28AM (#45658675)

      More specifically where it can help is in job creation. Where do you spend those billions? If you import resources and labour it's not going to help you, but if it's all spent at home (and Africa has plenty of resources and labour awaiting training) you're pumping a lot of money into the market while pulling people out of poverty. Those people then have more to spend which means the rest of the economy gets a boost. The problem Africa has had until now is very little investment and what there is (mining etc) tends to be exploiting their resources for the gain of foreign companies, so they haven't seen that happen before. I don't know whether it'll work as well has they hope, but I can certainly follow their reasoning.

      • by Cryacin (657549)
        Um... no... See "Broken window fallacy"
        • by JWW (79176) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:42AM (#45659605)

          This is not the broken window fallicy. They don't have any windows to break.

          It's not like they had functioning rockets and threw them out so they could fix them.

          • by khallow (566160)
            But they do have windows to break. Public funding comes from somewhere, either present or (more likely) future taxpayers. Those taxpayers are buying rockets (or more likely, rocket theater) - that's the "broken window", the economic activity that they're forced to fund.
            • by JWW (79176)

              That's not what the broken window fallacy is about.

              Its not about generalized government spending. It about breaking things that are fine to spur on stimulus by spending money to fix the things that were broken.

              • by khallow (566160)

                Its not about generalized government spending.

                It is when the pretext as in this case is to stimulate an economy.

            • by MightyYar (622222)

              They aren't talking about pissing money away. They are investing in infrastructure that does not yet exist. Infrastructure spending often brings multiple returns on investment. If the US passed a bill to spend a 100 billion dollars repairing bridges and tunnels, it would not be an example of "the broken window fallacy".

              • by khallow (566160)

                They are investing in infrastructure that does not yet exist.

                What would this "infrastructure" do that would have any value for Africa? Merely putting things in space need not have positive value, especially if they hit other objects in orbit. And as I noted, the money would be taken from other areas.

                • by MightyYar (622222)

                  Commercial launches would bring in foreign money, for one thing. African companies that depend on space assets would be able to go to a local source, for another.

                  • by khallow (566160)

                    Commercial launches would bring in foreign money, for one thing.

                    How does this help them attract commercial launches? I think having a stable and relatively non-corrupt legal environment would do much more.

                    • by MightyYar (622222)

                      I'll tell you what can't help them attract commercial launches: no space program whatsoever.

                    • by khallow (566160)

                      I'll tell you what can't help them attract commercial launches: no space program whatsoever.

                      But again, how is having a space program better in this regard than not having one. Some of these countries have an advantage in that they are close to the equator and have some other quirks of geography. The rest don't. In those cases, they just shouldn't be trying.

                      It's a standard comparative advantage argument. Find what you're good at doing and do that. Don't try to do what others are already doing far better and more aggressively than you can ever do.

                    • by MightyYar (622222)

                      I can't say whether it is a sound investment or not - only time will tell. I just am certain it is not an example of the broken window fallacy.

        • by ultranova (717540)

          Um... no... See "Broken window fallacy"

          Broken window fallacy only applies to idealised conditions of a perfectly efficient market that utilizes all available resources 100% at all times. If that condition is not met - for example, if a window maker can't find a new job fast enough to avoid falling into poverty and possibly triggering a cascade effect at that, or if you need to keep one available for emergencies yet the prevailing culture doesn't allow you to rise taxes to support a public retainer - then b

      • by LoRdTAW (99712)

        The proposal for building an African space agency sounds too good to be true. Most likely it will go into the pockets of corrupt government officials and contractors who won't get anything done and the project will be scrapped afters years in an artificial limbo.

        I would say its better to put the money into getting people fresh water, sewage treatment, waste disposal and training/equipment for sustainable farming. They have to learn to crawl before they can walk.

        • I would say its better to put the money into getting people fresh water, sewage treatment, waste disposal and training/equipment for sustainable farming. They have to learn to crawl before they can walk.

          I've been saying that for years. Instead of spending limited resources on pie in the sky programs that never go anywhere, the money should be spent on projects that will have a long term benefit. But for some reason people think that every village must have a space program and every mud hut must have 100 jiggabit internet.

          What africa needs is serous cultural and political reform. The leaders need to realize they are responsible for the people. An the common people need to get over the rape culture th

  • by AHuxley (892839) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @03:51AM (#45658559) Homepage Journal
    This will be very positive for regional telco prices. As more efforts like Regional African Satellite Communication Organization (RASCOM) move forward, Africa will enjoy much lower call cost and more bandwidth.
    As Ethiopian jet maintenance shows, Africa will enjoy the benifits of its own space science technology advancements over time.
  • Poverty is the oldest profession...
    • by Thanshin (1188877) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @04:41AM (#45658707)

      Poverty is the oldest profession...

      I disagree. Poverty is very unnatural. Many natural professions predate even the possibility of poverty: Hired muscle, Prostitute, Priest, Slaver.

      • by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortex.project-retrograde@com> on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @06:23AM (#45658951)

        Poverty is the oldest profession...

        I disagree. Poverty is very unnatural. Many natural professions predate even the possibility of poverty: Hired muscle, Prostitute, Priest, Slaver.

        This begs the question. Are the apes not poor by human standards? If we gave them jobs wouldn't they be impoverished prior, and haven't they been since before humans had jobs? Additionally: Have you never considered the first Hired muscle, Prostitute, Priest, and Slavers took up the job because they were too poor not to turn it down?

        • by Thanshin (1188877)

          No, they are not. Poverty is an artificial construct that depends on a previous one, which is property.

          An ape can't be rich nor poor, as he has no property. The first thug, whore, shaman or slaver, did the "job" in exchange for something other than property. Be it protection, food or pleasure.

  • Space research should become private business.
    • A few years ago, nobody thought the idea of poor nations skipping wired telephone infrastructure to go directly cellular would work either. This effort may lead to similar surprises.
  • by tlambert (566799) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @05:08AM (#45658783)

    Giving everyone $2/day:

    1.033 billion people * $2/day * 365 days/year = $754 billion

    That's assuming that, because of local scarcity, the influx of cash doesn't just inflate the cost of everything, leaving everyone in exactly the same place they are today, only unable to afford food next year.

    About the best aid we could possibly send to Africa would be to hire a bunch of Academi assassins to take down the corrupt politicians who are causing food aid to rot on the docks while the people the politicians want to oppress starve so that they can't rally sufficient effort to stage a violent overthrow of their corrupt governments.

  • > the application of space science technology and research to "basic necessities" of life &ndash; health, education, energy, food security, environmental management &ndash; is critical for the development of the continent.

    If a country can't even provide clean drinking water to their people then how in the fuck do they expect to give them space-age technology? It doesn't matter what they might learn from space travel, because they can't even make use of technology, like water purification, that w
  • So how come someone from the UK isn't allowed to access that page? FTA: We're sorry but this site is not accessible from the UK as it is part of our international service and is not funded by the licence fee. It is run commercially by BBC Worldwide, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the BBC, the profits made from it go back to BBC programme-makers to help fund great new BBC programmes. I can sort-of understand non-UK readers being prevented from seeing things paid for by the License Fee, but UK residents being
  • by Patch86 (1465427)

    Well, I just learned something new today. Even though TFA is BBC, and I am UK, I'm actually region-blocked from viewing it!

    BBC Future (international version)

    We're sorry but this site is not accessible from the UK as it is part of our international service and is not funded by the licence fee. It is run commercially by BBC Worldwide, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the BBC, the profits made from it go back to BBC programme-makers to help fund great new BBC programmes. You can find out more about BBC Worldwide and its digital activities at www.bbcworldwide.com.

    If you are looking for health, technology, science and environment news in the UK, please visit:
    Health, Technology, Science and Environment.

    You'd think they would just show me the page alongside whatever advertising they deem to be appropriate for their commercial service, but I guess there must be some arcane rule in their charter which prevents that.

    Bureaucracy can be a strange beast.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      And that sir or madam is the problem !! First wrong side of the road !! Blimey !! Whatever that is !! Second is paying for a license to own a telly or trying to hide from the triangulators looking for scofflaws !! B;imey !! Third is living on an island that if it were not for the American Gulf Stream would be colder than a witches tit !! BLIMEY !!

  • 'To Western eyes, it may seem rather inappropriate to launch space programs in sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly 70% of the population still lives on less $2 a day

    And he would be correct all around. I think Africa has larger issues to deal with first, before sending someone into space...but that's just my viewpoint

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I think Africa has larger issues to deal with first, before sending someone into space...but that's just my viewpoint

      Investment in space investment in Africa (which is a big place) is also investment in infrastructure in Africa, because you can't achieve it otherwise.

  • Africa needs space (Score:4, Interesting)

    by XB-70 (812342) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:04AM (#45659425)
    When I was a kid in the 60s, we had an African student stay with us. He was studying climatology. He was also fascinated by space. After graduation he returned to his home country. Using the information he had acquired, he collected satellite data on weather conditions (which was very advanced thinking for that time). He went into the country-side and advised local farmers of impending droubts, locust infestations and floods. The first year he did it, they were, at best, dismissive. When he went back to them after his forecasts has proved correct, they eagerly listened to him and it changed the agrarian economy. He also advised fishermen of temperature changes off-shore indicating optimal times to fish. This allowed local fishermen to get out to the fish before the huge Japanese trawlers came and took everything.

    He went on to have his own department at the local University.

    Of course, because of his good work, his nation rewarded him with threats to the lives of himself, his wife and his family so I won't state his name or other information about him here.

  • by tomhath (637240) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:57AM (#45659677)

    Yet Joseph Akinyede, director of the African Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Nigeria, an education centre affiliated with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, says that the application of space science technology and research to “basic necessities” of life – health, education, energy, food security, environmental management – is critical for the development of the continent.

    Yea, send more UN money. I'm confident that the leaders of those countries will spend it wisely.

    • by hawkfish (8978)

      Yet Joseph Akinyede, director of the African Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Nigeria, an education centre affiliated with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, says that the application of space science technology and research to “basic necessities” of life – health, education, energy, food security, environmental management – is critical for the development of the continent.

      Yea, send more UN money. I'm confident that the leaders of those countries will spend it wisely.

      You mean give it all to the plutocrats? After all, that is the American way!

  • Only to the fools (Score:4, Insightful)

    by morgauxo (974071) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @10:44AM (#45659955)

    " it may seem rather inappropriate to launch space programs in sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly 70% of the population still lives on less $2 a day"

    Only to the fools.

    A space program creates jobs, develops technology and gives people somethig to be proud of and aspire towards. It will always be easy to count the money that goes into any space program but the benefits and money coming out will outweigh the cost. It's harder to count that though so the fools will always be around holding manking back.

    I don't care what you are working towards, wherever you set your goals you will almost always fall a little short. If their goal is just to provide everyone the minimal basics, food, clean water and shelter then they will fail to do even that. If their goal is to make continual progress and achieve great things the outcome will still be less than the goal but the basics will be more than covered.

    We don't need to convert populations living off of $2 into populations living off of $3. We need to convert them to healthy, prosperous and advancing communities everywhere and in every way.

    • I'm wondering if they could even fence off an area without someone ripping it down and trading it in for cents on the dollar? there is a big enough problem with this sort of thing where I'm from so I cant imagine Nigeria being any better.
  • by koan (80826)

    "'To Western eyes, it may seem rather inappropriate to launch space programs in sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly 70% of the population still lives on less $2 a day."

    To everyone's eyes.

  • The point is if the population are dumb enough sheep to be taxed to the tune of billions total to fund the likes of NASA, NSA and
    a couple of other acronyms and don't do anything about it but sit there and find ways to rationalize it all because the cognitive
    dissonance does cause some unease.
  • We've saved a lot of money not REALLY bothering with space -- not really being serious about it anymore. Instead we've got this REALLY IMPORTANT deficit, but it doesn't exist when bailing out banks and being in really expensive wars hiring contractor mercenaries for ten times the regular soldier.

    And so we've kind of become less inspired, less a beacon of hope and progress, less interesting.

    Wasting money on inspiring children, on basic research and on people always pays for itself. The alternative is to hord

    • by Teancum (67324)

      We've saved a lot of money not REALLY bothering with space -- not really being serious about it anymore. Instead we've got this REALLY IMPORTANT deficit, but it doesn't exist when bailing out banks and being in really expensive wars hiring contractor mercenaries for ten times the regular soldier.

      I will agree that the USA is no longer being serious about going into space (with the exception of a bunch of starry eyed entrepreneurs who are being taxed into oblivion once it becomes profitable). As for saving money, I would dare say that expenditures for spaceflight have never been higher. Most of the spending on space at the moment comes not from high profile things like landing on the Moon, but instead on a bunch of three lettered acronymed agencies who have a budget that far outspends anything NASA

  • Several countries in Africa are traversed by the Equator, which is a good place for launch facilities.
    Maybe that's the idea.

  • So, are they considering putting up solar power satellites, and beaming really cheap power down?

                      mark

    PS The environmental impact study on SPS was done in the US... in the late seventies. No one's willing to front the money....

  • Just stop begging me for money with disease-riddled children, starving, with bugs on their faces, and open wounds, on the food network. Basic farming never needed the space age. I'll give you as many seeds as you like. Grow'em, or walk until you can. It's been decades of your begging. I just don't care anymore.

C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas l'Informatique. -- Bosquet [on seeing the IBM 4341]

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