Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Afronauts by Cristina De Middel

In 1964, at the height of the international space race, and only months after gaining independence from the UK, a rather eccentric Zambian school teacher Edward Makuka Nkoloso established the Zambian National Space Agency with the fantastic vision of putting the first African on Mars. Nkoloso enlisted eleven astronauts and, according to some account, a few cats, and subjected them to hours of ritualistic training.

To train the astronauts, Nkoloso set up a makeshift facility seven miles from Lusaka, where the trainees, dressed in drab overalls with British army helmets, would then take turns to climb into a 44 gallon oil drum which would be rolled down a hill, bouncing over rough ground - intended to simulate weightless lunar exploration. After this they were forced to walk upright on their hands.

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