For a nice inspirational story in the midst of all of this hurricane madness, let’s travel to Africa. While most of the world (including the US) is downgrading their space fleets – opting to either privatize or let the Russians do it all – the African Space Research Programme is constructing their very first space shuttle. The crazy thing is that the African Space Research Programme is made up of pretty much one man, Chris Nsamba and a team of volunteer engineering students. Oh, and they’re making a space shuttle in his garden.

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A local BBC correspondent discovered the projectand spoke to Nsamba about it. Unlike NASA, Nsamba does not have high-tech resources  – but he does have a dream.

“Let me tell you,” Nsamba said to the BBC, “building a space shuttle is a big job.” He thinks he’ll have it done in four to six years.

He and his team are currently testing their engineering skills before they build a full-size shuttle, but they hope that when it is finally finished, they will be able to send the first Ugandan astronaut into space.

Currently, the team has made a test plane in Nsamba’s garden which proudly displays the Ugandan flag. It is literally grounded at the moment as it has no engine and only has bricks to simulate weight. While the shuttle is the eventual aim, the plane could also end up being the first working plane designed and built in Uganda.

Funding for the home-made shuttle comes primarily from volunteers and the 600 members of the African Space Programme, however there are other challenges faced by Nsamba. Due to the fact that there is no national space programme, he has decided he will have to certify the would-be candidates himself. His qualifications? Well, he is a student of astronomy…

You can easily mock Nsamba’s pipe dream (even though he’s a former US Marine) and the fact that his hopes may never get off the ground, but you can’t deny his enthuiasm. When asked how he plans to simulate zero gravity, he said: “Easy, 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.”

Of course if Nsamba succeeds, then there is surely hope for all of us armchair astronauts.

+ African Space Research Programme

via BBC News

Images: African Space Research Programme