Space dunk meets space junk

Africa’s Murky Space Race: Where Vanity Project Meets Utility Object

November 16, 2020

The most popular versions of the story behind the early race for space characterises the U.S. and the Soviet Union as sole contenders going head-to-head and trying to outdo each other. But there’s a 1-minute YouTube video that begs to differ.

That video points to the existence of an unlikely third contender, or perhaps, a pretender. The short clip titled: “Zambia’s Forgotten Space Program 1964,” captures the outsized ambitions of an eccentric Zambian school teacher, Edward Mukuka Nkoloso.

He had one big goal: to beat the U.S. and the Soviets in the space race and plant the Zambian flag on the moon. Then, maybe take Mars too.

But Nkoloso went about it in an odd way. He wore a cape, his rocket was a battered open drum, and he accused the U.S. and the Soviets of copying his methods.

That's besides the fact that his ragtag band of 12 astronauts-in-training prepped for space by rolling downhill in a barrel and learning to walk on their hands, which, according to Nkoloso, was “the only way humans can walk on the moon.”

Of course, that Zambian space conquest never happened, partly due to the fact that Nkoloso -- the self-appointed director of Zambia's national space programme -- was never going to be taken seriously, as he pursued those ambitions in a manner that was bor...

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