Chris Nsamba — yes, the same guy who's trying to build a space shuttle from scratch in his mom's backyard — has turned his attention to something perhaps a bit more reasonable. He's making a small space satellite equipped with a camera, and occupied by one tiny passenger — a rat.
Even if successful, it wouldn't be the continent's first satellite in space; Ghana claimed that distinction back in May. But Nsamba, age 28, is single-handedly hoping to bring Uganda into the African space race as well.
To that end, he's working on a device he calls a 'space observer.' The goal is to have the satellite capture a picture of Uganda from space and send a live feed to Nsamba's "control center." It's about the size of a beach ball and is equipped with a GPS, a solar panel, and a camera. It will also be able to accommodate a live rat.
Voice of America reports:
Aside from a grant from Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Nsamba and his team have had to rely entirely on private donations from well-wishers in Uganda and abroad. Nsamba says he also doesn’t have a technical team to assist with the finer points of aerospace engineering.
“I developed it myself. No one is involved, just me." he said. "The other people are my students. I’m training them on how to develop such projects. However, they are students, they are still learning. I don’t acquire any skills from them. They are the ones acquiring skills from me.”
To get the observer into space, Nsamba will use a helium weather balloon to cary it up to 120,000 feet — at which point thrusters will kick in.
Again from VOA:
Nsamba claims he and his team have been working up to 18 hours a day on the project. And, he says, the probe is functional, and thrusters have been tested and the rocket fuel is ready. The Ugandan president has even given permission to launch the observer, Nsamba says, but wants to inspect it himself first.
Regardless of the outcome, you really have to respect Nsamba for going ahead with this. It may be a far cry from NASA — but you have to start somewhere.
[VOA; all images African Space Research Program]