by Sarah Wild (Jacana)
Space is the new frontier and as main host to largest radio telescope in the world, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), South Africa is perfectly positioned to explore these new vistas of opportunity.
Sarah Wild, Science and Technology editor for Business Day, explains why. She tracks South Africa’s long history in (radio) astronomy which begins with the /Xam Bushmen stories on the origins of celestial bodies. Scientists, academics, and subsequent governments have initiated and supported the construction of various observatories and telescopes. The ANC-led government has spent more on radio astronomy than previous governments since 1910 combined and further facilitated developments by lawfully declaring most of the Northern Cape “an astronomy advantage area”. This has allowed South Africa to position as a “supplier of knowledge and innovation”.
By awarding the SKA the international astronomical society has endorsed this position. The economic impact of the project might not be as immediate as the poor communities in the Karoo hope but the SKA will contribute to development and jobs. Its human capital development programme greatly boosts interest and capability in the fields of Science & Technology for (South) Africans.
Although the scientific content went over my head at times, Sarah Wild’s enthusiasm for this amazing South African achievement and its further potential is catching.