EDWARD FESTUS MUKUKA NKOLOSO: Zambia’s Afronaut



By

Moono John

Edward Festus Mukuka Nkoloso was born in the year 1919 in Chinsali Northern Rhodesia present day Zambia. He is the man to have coined the term Afronaut after the space mission that he wished to have undertaken.
Edward Mukuka Nkoloso was drafted into the Northern Rhodesian Regiment forces during the time of the World War II, where he served as a sergeant in the signal corp. It was during his time at the Signal Corp that Nkoloso fully developed his desire to launch a space ship. After the second world war, in 1945 Nkoloso became translator for the Northern Rhodesian government based on his experiences during the time of war. Apart from serving in the Regiment Forces as a sergeant as well as a translator, Nkoloso also served as a teacher. When he opened a new school it was purportedly shut down by British authorities for allegedly not following the correct procedures of opening a school. The British authorities also believed that he was teaching what was contrary to the syllabi that was running in schools. They feared that he might have been training some militia to overthrow the government.
Edward Mukuka Nkoloso then joined the resistance movement against the British colonial government.

Edward Mukuka Nkoloso was arrested and imprisoned in 1956 and 1957.Following his release from prison, he was appointed as security official of United National Independence Party (UNIP).
In 1960, Nkoloso founded the Zambia National Academy of Science, Space Research and Philosophy.From 1960 until sometime after 1969, the Academy had mission of going to the moon and space. This program sought to accomplish the launching of a rocket that would send one girl, 17-year-old by the name of Martha Mwambwa, and two cats to the Moon. The Academy also had plans for a trip to Mars. Nkoloso hoped to beat the United States and Soviet Union’s respective space programs at the height of the Space Race. at this time, the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union had heightened and the winner of the space battle would eventually silence the other. Nkoloso hoped to take advantage of this scenario and lead a little known African country of Zambia to be the first country to launch and complete a space mission.
To train the astronauts, Nkoloso set up a makeshift facility on an abandoned farm 11 kilometres from Lusaka’s central business district, where the trainees would be rolled down a rough hill in a 200-litre oil drum.This according to Nkoloso, would train the afronauts in the feeling of weightlessness in both space travel and re-entry into the Earth upon returning. In addition, they used a tire-swing to simulate weightlessness. These unorthodox ways of training the afronauts according to Nkoloso would make the better prepared for the challenges that lay ahead.
The Zambia Academy of Science, Space Research and Philosophy created a rocket, named D-Kalu 1, was a 3-metre by 2-metre (10×6 ft) drum-shaped vessel. The rocket was named after the first president, Kenneth David Kaunda, he claimed it was made of aluminium and copper, and space worthy. The planned launch date was on 24 October 1964, Independence Day, and would take place from the Independence Stadium but was purportedly denied permission due to being inappropriate.
Nkoloso then asked UNESCO for a grant of £7,000,000 in Zambian pounds to support his space program. He also requested $1.9 billion from private foreign sources. However, the Ministry of Power, Transport and Communication is reported as stating those requests had not been made on the behalf of Zambia. He felt he did not receive the necessary support from the relevant authorities both in Zambia and outside of Zambia.
Nkoloso stated the program failed due to lack of funds, the pregnancy of afronaut Martha Mwambwa who was the lead afronaut in the program and her subsequently leaving the program to return to her parents. The other problem is that the program received negative publicity from the media and this affected the morale to continue with the program. Nkoloso also claimed that the rocket had been sabotaged “by foreign elements”. The Zambian government distanced itself from Nkoloso’s endeavour.
After the space program failed, Nkoloso unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Lusaka, placing emphasis on scientific advancement. He was appointed by President Kaunda to the Liberation Center a movement for regional freedom. He died on 4 March 1989 and was buried with presidential honours
Edward Mukuka Nkoloso is best remembered for his bigger plans of being the first man to launch a space program and he is credited with coining the term Afronaut.


References

Nkoloso, Edward Mukuka (c. 1965). “We’re going to Mars! With a spacegirl, two cats and a missionary”. Lusaka, Zambia. Archived from the original on 11 July 2007. Retrieved 13 December 2007. Lay summary (18 April 2004).
Banda, Gabriel (6 November 2009). “Africa in the Great War”. The Post Online. Lusaka, Zambia. Archived from the original on 20 December 2013.
Serpell, Namwali. “The Zambian “Afronaut” Who Wanted to Join the Space Race”. New Yorker. Retrieved 11 March 2017.

Published by MyWritings

A Writer, A Diplomat in Waiting, Climate Change Advocate and a Football Administrator

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