From the famed astronomical observations of Sirius by West Africa’s Dogon people in about 3200 BCE to the maverick “afronaut” moon-shot programme set up in then Northern Rhodesia by eccentric science teacher Edward Mukuka Nkoloso in 1960, Africa’s relationship with space used to be largely remote, even whimsical.

Sure, the SA Radio Astronomy Observatory did help enable communications for Nasa’s 1969 moon landing — but it would take another 30-odd years before the first real afronaut, local IT billionaire Mark Shuttleworth, blasted into low earth orbit...

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