Ugandan man wants to build space shuttle from scratch

Here's another entry for the DIY African aircraft files. In Kampala, Uganda, Chris Nsamba — freelance aeronautics engineer and founder of the African Space Research Program — is building an airplane in his backyard. Once he's done with this project, Nsamba will move on to constructing a homemade space shuttle.

In an interview with the BBC, Nsamba was optimistic that he'd be able to complete the shuttle in four to six years. Notes the Beeb:

Uganda is not known to be a big player in space exploration. In fact, Chris will need to certify the would-be cosmonauts himself as there's no-one else in the country able or qualified to do so.

He's even having to do the training himself. His course draws heavily on his background as a student of astronomy - he's been teaching them how to calculate the distance between planets for example, telling them what the Karman line is, and educating them about the dangers of re-entry.

A lack of local facilities is hampering the project and I asked Chris how he plans to simulate zero gravity, for example, in Kampala.

"Easy" he said. "I've got a jet engine on order so I'm planning to build a tunnel, put the engine at one end and when I throw a guy in he'll float in a similar way to how he would in space."


Above is a video from last year of Nsamba working on his current project. Four to six years is a rosy assessment for completing a manned spaceship with almost no materials or funding, but hell, I hope he somehow finishes it and ushers in a new era of boutique, no-budget spacecraft.

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I'm going to be serious for a moment.

Look, I don't know what this flurry of African back-yard aerospace engineering is about. Is it an amusing pasttime? a way to get famous? a way to attract public interest (and funds) for their communities? I don't think these people who build "helicopters" and "airplanes" and "space shuttles" really believe they are going to fly these contraptions.

But my problem is not with them; it's with the western reporters who play along and use these people as light entertainment, turning them into laughing stock. It reeks of colonialism and racism. I believe these stories should simply be ignored for the sake of all involved.