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SANSA & NASA collaborates to support human spaceflight missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond

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South Africa, Nasa collaborate to support human missionsOn June 2, 2020 The South African National Space Agency(SANSA) has partnered with National Aeronautics and Space Administration(NASA) to host a deep-space ground station to support human spaceflight missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. South Africa became the 4th country(4th site)after the United States of America, Spain and Australia to host a deep space ground station.

Major Highlights

i.The 4th site will be integrated into an existing network of three sites, will complement the other sites & provide improved coverage and redundancy for critical mission support. The station will be operated, maintained & managed by SANSA 

ii.Benefits of the station to South Africa

  • The development of scarce skills and the growth of the science, engineering, technology and innovation sector among others.
  • Opportunities will be provided to the knowledge economy and increase the national research output in space science and technology.

iii.The advantage of the station is its location at the southern tip of Africa, with the climate at Matjiesfontein which makes it ideal for the frequency that will be involved in space studies.

iv.To capture the faint signals sent from millions or even billions of miles away (from earth) the dishes must be large enough

v.The dish antennas with a height equivalent to a 20-storey building will be built soon.

Background

  • There was an earlier agreement between the 2 organisations for the establishment of the station at Matjiesfontein town in the Western Cape Province.
  • The partnership between the 2 happens nearly half a century after NASA built a tracking station at Hartbeestfontein, South Africa in 1961 to track NASA probes which were sent beyond the earth”s orbit.
  • The facility was converted to a radio astronomy observatory after NASA’s departure from South Africa in 1974 due to increasing international opposition to the white-minority apartheid government.

About NASA:
Headquarters– Washington, United States.
Administrator– James Frederick Bridenstine or “Jim” Bridenstine 

About SANSA:
Headquarters– Gauteng, South Africa
Chief Executive Officer– Valanathan Munsami